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Ask Dr. Lynch: Where is K-12 Technology Headed?

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Camille S. asks:

I am middle-school teacher in south Florida. I consider myself to be a tech-savvy educator, and I try to stay in tune with technology trends. In your professional opinion, where do you see K-12 technology headed?

ANSWER:

In the past decade, classrooms have become more than a hub for learning; they have transformed into showcases for the latest technology. From utilizing the Internet in lesson planning to “one tablet per child” initiatives, multimedia learning has arrived in K-12 classrooms. New teachers may not understand the extent to which technology has changed the student experience, but veteran educators know the significance. Even the most progressive technology will be considered outdated, or even obsolete, in just a few short years.

So where will technology go from here? Educators can expect fast developments in the following areas:

BYOD: Known as Bring Your Own Device, this idea represents a reversal from schools’ original stance on mobile devices. Instead of asking students to put Smartphones or tablets away during class time, teachers and administrators are starting to encourage those devices in public school settings. Integrating the technology that students already own and use is an affordable approach to digital forms of learning. Of course, not every student has access to a personal mobile device, but this change of mindset shifts learning control from school officials to the hands of the student user.

Natural user interfaces: A natural user interface, or NUI, uses the body’s movements to provide outcomes. In the consumer market, examples of natural user interfaces include the Nintendo Wii, the Xbox Kinect and the iPhone’s famous virtual assistant, Siri. The potential in the field of K-12 education is still being realized but will certainly lead to developments in the next half-decade. An advantage of this type of technology is the diversity of students who can benefit. Blind, deaf, physically disabled and autistic children can better learn through use of this still-evolving technology.

Dimitri Kanevsky is a member of the Obama administration’s Champion of Change initiative. He writes about the way that technology works to “remove barriers that emerge due to a person’s social characteristics, geographic location, physical or sensory abilities.” NUIs can potentially remove these barriers to a life-changing degree.

Personal learning environments: This type of learning is student-centric. PLEs focus on allowing students to choose resources, often through electronic formats, for individual learning that fits their own style and pace. If implemented correctly, PLEs empower students to create their own learning futures and reflect on the way in which these tools impact academic and life success. For public schools to completely embrace this philosophy, cloud computing and mobile device technology need to be in place. PLEs need to be portable and easily accessed to provide a genuine academic advantage.

What does it all mean, really?

Tablets. Apps. BYOD. NUIs. PLEs. Each piece of K-12 classroom technology builds on the one that preceded it. At times it may seem like public school teachers and administrators need a second full-time job in the technology sector in order to keep up with electronic classroom culture. While it will be several years until the impact of these technologies can truly be measured in terms of student success, the general consensus is that educators should adapt at all costs, and fast.

Do public schools have the resources to adapt quickly enough? Changes in technology policies often need approval. Bringing in new equipment also requires budget approval—and actual funds. All of this red tape takes time, and time is not a friend of technology.

While colleges and universities, even public ones, move to adjust rapidly to advancements, K-12 institutions are just the opposite. This is a disadvantage to students, teachers and our culture as a whole. For technology to truly make an impact, barriers in public schools need to come down. This will require a shift in attitude at all levels of K-12 decision-making and forward movement at a rapid pace.
 

About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.


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