Sunday, June 13, 2010

21st century education is more than just a smartboard

Following up on my last post I saw an article in the Washington Post, Some educators question if whiteboards, other high-tech tools raise achievements, that further confirmed the idea that simply investing in technology has little effect if you don't change the fundamental model of teaching. Smartboards in particular come in for criticism. Although they are marketed as interactive many people see them as simply reinforcing the traditional teacher role and that they fail to really engage students. Furthermore there is little evidence that these innovations will make any difference to students' grades.

"There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement," said Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University. "But the value of novelty, that's highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are 'innovative' is to pick up the latest device." 

As long as we simply use new technology to reinforce traditional methods we won't see any significant effect on students' learning. It's time we started seeing new technology as opportunities for change instead of forcing them into traditional pigeon holes like "virtual classrooms", "virtual desktops" or "smartboards". Smartboards can certainly be effective for presenting information and integrating the web into the classroom but if we're really going to teach 21st century skills we need to look beyond the traditional paradigm.

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