To celebrate the beginning of a brand new year, we asked members of the Education World Tech Team to gaze into their crystal balls and predict how educators will use technology in the next few years.
"I think technology will be used more and more," says Spanish teacher Linda Villadoniga, "not just in the classroom, but also as an instructional delivery system. I'm fortunate to be teaching in a brand new state-of-the-art school that also serves as a prototype for future middle schools. Every classroom is equipped with an audio enhancement system (teachers can wear microphones, or use handheld microphones, so they don't strain their vocal cords). We also have LCD projectors and document cameras, making handouts almost obsolete.
Our county also will be providing instruction online through the St. John's Virtual School. The variety of courses students will be able to take online range from the traditional math, science, and social studies to world languages such as Spanish, Latin, and Chinese. Our students are used to a fast-moving visual environment. Technology in the classroom provides a means of keeping them involved and engaged in their learning, and that's something we all want."
Mary Jackson sees the future from a very different place. "My school is technologically impoverished," she says. "Some schools in my district, especially magnets and those with affluent populations, have everything. Unfortunately, we are neither.
However, a few special technology programs for teachers that I've been selected for have netted me a couple of laptops and a projector for my classroom. I use them a lot, so in my school the coming year will probably bring more of the same -- me finding resources and creating movies and PowerPoint presentations to show students, and students mainly using the computers in our labs for word processing and Internet research.
In the bigger education world, however, I predict that podcast use has peaked; that more and more parents will become comfortable communicating by e-mail (yeah!); that more parents will get used to checking classroom Web sites for information; and that distance-learning/online classes will continue to grow. I hope to teach one myself to teachers next year. They are my preferred method for taking classes, in part because, as a rule, I've found them to be extremely organized and available, and also because I hate to drive to classes at night.
A final thought: A teacher at my school presides over a computer lab dedicated to her math program. The kids all are on their own levels, go at their own speeds, and receive immediate and accurate remediation. For subjects like math, with definite right/wrong answers, technology works very well. I think, however, for classes requiring higher-level thinking and for class dynamics a regular non-technological approach often is best. But you can bet we teachers will continue to find new ways to use technology to teach more effectively."
Katy Wonnacott agrees. "With emphasis being placed on nationwide testing, it is likely that more schools will turn to content management software and individualized instruction in the coming year. I also see us using technology to continue to increase our student-parent-teacher communication. In my school district, I have seen an increase in student responsibility as students are able to view teacher grade reports online and see their own progress. I also see a need for increased bandwidth, as more and more schools use online video instruction. Our teachers love the easy access of streaming video. Short video clips on a science or history topic can help diversify delivery and offer a way to teach to multiple learning modes. I would like to predict that funding for schools will increase, but, sadly, I don't see that in the future."
Several Tech Team members commented on the importance of incorporating the technology students use at home into their lives at school. According to Vicky Romano, "In the coming year, we as educators need to look at social networking and how we can use it to communicate with students, families, and community members. Posting information and images on Flickr or Voicethread provides access to Web space for projects and for communication. We have to be aware of what our students are using and tune in to help them continue to be critical thinkers and savvy users of technology."
Lydia Nelson agrees. "My thought is that I'm going to have to start harnessing the power of the MP3 player --for podcasts, RSS feeds, and so on. All the kids have one and they bring them to school. Instead of fighting it, I think we have to seriously look at how to use them to our advantage.
Who knows, maybe in the not-too-distant future even Wii technology can be used as an adaptive physical education (or similar) tool. Perhaps the Wii could help some students learn techniques for a sport -- very similar to how it might be used at home, but for an educational-setting purpose."
Linda George also sees the need for educators to engage students with technology. "Judging by the conferences that are being advertised for the following year, I think that programming for younger kids will be in the forefront," she says. Scratch and Alice will lead the way.
I think more multimedia projects will be taught to students in order to make their presentations richer and more viewable. With iPods and other easy ways to capture voices, I think digital storytelling also will become much more of an option.
I hope AUPs are being looked at with an eye to the future--indeed, the present. I hope this year brings new AUPs that reflect the way the students today are using technology. Students do not enjoy "powering down" to come to school. They love their toys and gadgets, and if we can help them learn better by using them, then let's do it.
I hope that as students use technology to learn about students in other countries and other cultures, they'll grow up to say, 'No way am I going to shoot him/her...He's my brother/she's my sister.'"
Other team members also commented on the power of technology to bring people together.
Cossondra George sees more use of collaborative teaching -- through blogs, wikis, other online Web 2.0 apps -- "so students across the world can work together on projects."
Jennifer Wagner agrees, saying, "I believe the coming year is going to bring a surge in collaboration, with teachers expanding the walls of their classrooms to communicate with classrooms all over the world.
I believe there will be a demand for quality professional development that will not be limited to in-house opportunities.
Finally, I believe the coming year will see the tools of Web 2.0 (wikis, blogs, and so on) utilized in a variety of ways within the classroom, and that students will be expected to use those tools as well."
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