Does technology really help education?
How learning occurs is a question that can be answered differently based on different learning theories. Behavorism, cognitivism, constructivism, socio-constructivism and connectivism all attempt to provide insight into how humans learn.
Based on socio-constructivist learning theories — for example, learning is an active process in which learners are not seen as consumers of knowledge, but constructors of meaning. Learning takes place in social interactions. No doubt these claims have a strong scientific ground and I’m sure they would be the first attributes of education that come to mind if I asked any educator what they think makes effective learning.
On the other hand, is this really what happens at schools? I doubt it. Then, why is it so difficult to put all these into practice and go beyond traditional ways of learning which is usually teacher-centered, based on transmission and consumption of knowledge, which serves nothing but memorization that does not lead to anything meaningful in terms of critical thinking and creativity.
Then the question is “Can technology really help us achieve more meaningful learning outcomes?”
Technology in education is not new. The earliest technological devices used in education were radios, overhead projectors, then TVs, and finally personal computers followed by mobile devices like tablets and smartphones in the last decade. Nearly a hundred years have passed ever since, but has there really been a significant shift in education in terms of providing effective learning at schools. I don’t think so. We have all the technological devices around us. We are connected to the world like we have never been before. The world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. Learning — formal or informal- takes place without boundaries, all the time and for free via online courses. Yet, in most educational contexts technology is mostly used as a substitute to the traditional means. Instead of turning in the homework on paper, students e-mail it. Instead of listening to the instructor in a university’s lecture hall, students watch the instructional videos in their room. Although I still value these as they are really convenient and make learning easier and ubiquitous, I do not believe technology has brought a significant value into education yet. The problem will remain as long as schools treat students as passive consumers of knowledge. And we won’t be able to achieve it unless we unleash the real potential of technology.
What is the real potential of technology in education and what is that “significant value” that technology can create?
Kevin Kelly talks about Web, what it does and what we can achieve with it. In one of his talks he says every new technology creates new ways to succeed. There is indeed no straight path to success and technology allows us to reach success in infinite number of ways. We now have more choices and opportunities through Web and all the tools it offers us. One just needs to imagine and create new possibilities!
My emphasis is especially on imagination and the act of creating here. A huge potential lies in the very nature of the Web. We are in a participation age that allows us to construct meaning, become creators or self-publishers and so on.
Coding now makes it possible to create, invent and change the world. Teach students how to code and let technology spark their creativity. Maybe it is time for educators to talk less and make more space for students to imagine and create more.
A curriculum that is STEM-based seems to be the best possible way of giving students a solid background to become the innovators of the future. Technology as one of the basic components of such a curriculum will surely help every child become more creative, productive and active learners. Only then can they get ready for the future of endless possibilities, a kind of future that is hard to forecast given the speed of technological advancements right now.
I believe that’s how technology will make real sense in the educational context and have a real impact on education.