The question of what is the most effective way to teach students is one that inspires immense passions, distinct opinions and many differing views. This is exactly the sort of question that should generate very big responses because the stakes are so high.

As times change, so to do teaching methods, and today we are seeing this trend in full effect as our society is in the midst of a massive technology “bloom” which is inspiring so much amazing innovation in technology. Of course as we are all quickly adapting to the classroom of today, we are still asking the important questions, including the one really big one – despite all the hype do students actually learn more when using technology? If ever a year was poised to adequately begin to have a real dialogue around this question 2012 would seem to be it. Over time we have seen how the classroom has adjusted to technology but it is also important that we as educators and “stakeholders” make sure that we are not overtaken by the shiny object syndrome and that we continue to remain vigilant when it comes to outcomes.

That said, the reality is these are extremely exciting times for both educators and students, times filled with amazing potential that could drive much stronger education outcomes that will translate into a higher quality of life for everyone.

Powerful!

Here is just a small sampling of some of the thinking, technologies and reporting that is currently being created to help ask the big question surrounding technology and education – does it work:

Will students learn more using digital textbooks? Apple’s launch last week of new digital-textbook software has educators and experts considering whether students will learn more and better using these and other tablet-based resources. Measuring the effect of these tools may prove complicated, and experts, including Ron Owston of Canada’s York University, say teacher effectiveness and the environment in which the technology is used are important factors. “Kids need some structure. They need guidance. They need feedback. They’re not going to get that from electronic books alone,” Owston said.

Redefining Instruction with Technology: Five Essential Steps: This is a very interesting story about an educator in the fall of 2010, that was awarded a grant that brought 32 iPads to her classroom. Of course she was quickly confronted with another question – now what?

3 Tips on Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Digital Learning Day: Strategies for adopting classroom technology. The Alliance for Excellent Education is promoting the first annual Digital Learning Day, to be held on Feb. 1, when it will recognize educators who are successfully integrating technology into the curriculum. Bob Wise, the group’s president and former West Virginia governor, and Sarah Hall, director of the Alliance’s Center for Secondary School Digital Learning and Policy, suggest that effective use of classroom technology requires planning, a willingness to try new tools, and the ability to choose and combine content and technology to create effective lessons.

“You can’t just slap a netbook [computer] on top of a textbook and say, ‘Great, now we have technology,”

Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy organization

The Economist recently held a very interesting online debate about technology in education – 56% of those that votes felt that “new technologies and new media do make a significant contribution to the quality of education” but there were some very compelling arguments on the other side as well.

While there has yet to be that critical tipping point moment where we can all say definitively that technology does without a doubt make education better we can all agree that the drive to do better is something that will never end. Fortunately this very drive to continually improve fits in very nicely with one of the underlying principles of technology; the simple idea that over time technology evolves. Our hope here at Why Science is that while technology alone cannot provide solutions to every educational circumstance, technology should be able to work with our educators in such as way that over time our educators will be much better positioned to teach and our students similarly will be much more able to learn.

 

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