Why EdTech is More Important Now than Ever

We live in exciting times when it comes to educational technology.  Not only has technology been getting better and better for many years (at a nearly exponential rate), it has also gotten significantly more affordable.

But with the rise of technology comes downsides too.  For one thing, distractions abound, from smartphones to online social networks to television to videogames.  People — especially young people — spend hours upon hours each and every day staring at screens and interacting with devices that even science fiction writers wouldn’t have predicted would exist 20 years ago.

And it’s starting to show.  Student achievement is falling or remaining stagnant by all measures.  Why is this?  Is it because students themselves are less capable?  Hopefully not.  They certainly have all the necessary tools for success at their disposal.  The resources possessed by the average school today are far and away better than those of a “good” school from many years ago.

So is it the fault of the parents?  Again, hopefully not.  They say many parents these days spend less time with their children because they’re working so much, but I think that’s a bit of a cop out.  I don’t subscribe to the belief that society is getting worse.  Maybe we’re just more aware of it thanks to how easily information spreads these days, but people have always been lazy, uncaring, and all manner of other bad things.

That must mean teachers are getting worse, right?  Honestly, I think not.  I had many wonderful teachers growing up, and I know many wonderful people who decided to devote their careers to teaching students.  Blaming teachers for everything is basically scapegoating, and I don’t think that’s fair.

The source of the problem, I think, lies with the solution: technology.  With each passing year, technology gets better and better and our lives are changed — sometimes drastically.  Do you remember when you first learned about the internet or used your first smartphone?  For me, these events were absolutely life-changing, and I say that without hyperbole.

It’s not to say that I could never live in a world without those things (not that I would choose to!), but that the amount of work these inventions save me each and every day is astounding.  The list of random things I no longer have to do thanks to new technology could fill a book, and I am truly grateful for it.  These advancements allow me to focus my life on other, more useful and satisfying pursuits.

But a change of focus necessitates a reevaluation of what we teach our children.  We can no longer waste time teaching kids things that they will simply not need once they get out of school.  A couple examples: I never write in cursive, but I do use my phone to send important emails and texts regularly.  I don’t remember how to use a library card catalog system, but I can find nearly anything on the internet.  I almost never do complex mental math, but I can use a scientific calculator quite well.

In some cases, I was introduced to these things in school.  I learned how to type in elementary school, I was introduced to the internet for research, and I had to buy a TI-83 for math class.  But I only received a cursory education about each.

I perfected my typing skills by using instant messaging programs and playing online videogames.  I figured out how to find (and analyze) truly useful online information when I began work as a research associate at a public policy institute.  And I had to teach myself how to program my TI-83 to do my work for me so that I would never have to do a complicated formula again.

These skills that I list are some of the most useful skills that I posses, and they were not adequately honed by a school system that is stuck teaching skills from the past.  Education needs to be dynamic, now more so than ever.  The best way to do that is to harness the awesome power of educational technology.  Only then will we be able to churn out students ready to succeed in the modern world.

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4 Responses to Why EdTech is More Important Now than Ever
  1. marileeGVSU

    I totally agree with you that technology education needs to be part of everyday school curriculum. The trouble is that technology changes so quickly; the idea that education would or could keep up is unrealistic. Honestly, why hasn’t America switched to the metric system? It is a big change. Plus technology in education takes a lot of money, training for teachers, as well as curriculum realignment. What things do we eliminate to add room for the technology hours? I was truly sad when cursive was eliminated from the elementary curriculum in our school district. Yet this was one area I could understand would become obsolete. Who are the “experts” that determine what should be taught and what should be eliminated. Do these people really understand the needs of children or do they have some sort of agenda? I am not trying to be a downer. I think the challenge is a nationwide determination of what an “educated person” in the now generation looks like. This is a bigger change than the metric system and it will and demands time.

  2. John

    These are very good points. Honestly, I don’t have any real answers to your questions.

    It would be nice if we could rely on teachers to act with more autonomy with regards to tech, but not everyone feels the same way of course.

  3. Soma

    I agree with you in most of your thought. Technology now a days become more and more prevalent.
    I Like your words When you say “Education needs to be dynamic, now more so than ever. The best way to do that is to harness the awesome power of educational technology. Only then will we be able to churn out students ready to succeed in the modern world.”
    Really we need to prepare our students to be a good citizen and know how to work in the life after they graduate. The world is changing faster, for this ED Technology is become more universal subject in education.

  4. John

    Another interesting article talking about decreasing test scores.

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/21/opinion/bennett-education/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    I like the final paragraph:

    The latest drop in SAT reading scores should not be written off as a statistical outlier, but should be a wake-up call to heed the chorus of reformers, conservatives and liberals alike, whose prescriptions are timely, relevant and might be just what we need to turn our public schools around.

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