Education, everyone's innate right, is an essential cornerstone for human development and culture. "The whole world's a classroom," says Jon Spayde (Spayde 65), it means that people perceive as well as receive education and knowledge in whatever we do and wherever we are in this world. Considering the highly technologic nature of the current era and its changes, everything has become lofty and faster and meanwhile people begin to adapt to changes in education to be efficient. Therefore, I want discuss new age education which is filled with technology and digital information.
Our education has radically changed from its original form and people unconsciously find that they are successfully surrounded by all kinds of digital devices, which have affected their life style and educations enormously. As a Digital Native who was born in or after the age of digital technologies, I clearly understand the advantages and abundant benefits that digital learning can provide to our education systems, and I know why some aged professors are terrified of their instruction methods getting destroyed by new education digital devices and Digital Natives (Prensky 1).
The traditional methodology of education, "Instructor Led Training ", meant that student should always focus on instructor's paper lectures and use basic tools to make notes. Although we still use this methodology widely, new digital equipments such as projectors and class computers appeared when I was in High school. Nowadays, at Pasadena City College, I discover that student use more and more technological devices such as laptops and iPads in their classes because they can make classes more interactive and dynamic than in the past. While technology can influence education positively, some questions remain for debate and discussion. For example, what are the differences between traditional education and technological education? At the same time, does new technology improve or retrogress students' attention?
Because of the improvements of technology, inventors made many incredible devices to help people keep in touch with their families or friends, acquire new type of online jobs, and get valuable information efficiently. Therefore, these devises in modern society make most, if not all, workers more efficient, powerful, and perfect. Following this trend, technology began to support education very well in the last twenty years, driven by features and affordances of the new learning devices. These features include portability, flexibility, ease of access, in-situ data entry, social interactivity, data exchange and customization to individual use (Mifsud & Morcht, 2014).
However, as education is becoming more technologically oriented, some new problems in students have occurred. As students accommodated high technology into their studying and lives, there was a decrease in attention span. It has became a widespread belief among teachers that students' constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks (Richtel, 2014).
Richtel states that 71 percent of the 685 teachers surveyed in the Common Sense project thought technology was hurting attention span “somewhat” or “a lot”. About 60 percent said that it hindered students’ ability to write and communicate face to face, and almost half said it hurt critical thinking and their ability to do homework (Richtel, 2014). Therefore, many teachers have a bias towards technology driven education and they believe the technological education will make students incapable. On the other hand, some scholars who study the role of media in society say no long-term studies have been done that adequately show how and if student attention span has changed because of the use of digital technology. However, there is mounting indirect evidence that constant use of technology can affect behavior, particularly in developing brains, because of heavy stimulation and rapid shifts in attention (Richtel, 2014).
New technology can affect not only teenager students, but also give many authors and scholars the same negative effects at some time. Nicholas Carr claims that there more and more technology using authors have trouble in writing and reading (Carr 64). The author’s concentration often becomes fidgety or loses the thread and they start to drift after two or more pages. Then, they need to begin to do something else or just quit their incomplete draft. The reason is that these authors write one or two paragraphs habitually on their blogs or Facebook, so they gradually fear to write long essays. More seriously, these authors become accustomed to use new technology to get their quick gains which means people only see the key words or the main paragraph in the article online (Carr 66).
Some teachers find students' off tasks or distractions become more frequent and gradually refuse to do some work during class. In addition, some scholars claim that technology can affect students' studies negatively. However, we cannot really define that off-task is bad for students' studying because students' distraction or off-task are only defined by teachers. Therefore, these research studies only represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones, and video games affects students’ capability to focus (Richtel, 2014).
L.Mifsud and A.I Morcht, who are professors from Norway, tested four classrooms equipped with mobile technologies on PDAs. There were two sixth grade classes in Michigan, USA and two seventh grade classes in Norway (Mifsud & Morcht 190). They collected 47 hours of video material for research. At first, they discovered that the teacher-defined PDA-mediated activities in the two countries were different, but the student-defined activities in the four classrooms had similar patterns. At Headland Primary, Norway, the teacher-defined PDA-mediated activities observed were writing sentences in English, keeping their weekly logs, and using simultaneous beaming for math and vocabulary recall. At Midlands Intermediate school, USA, the teacher-defined PDA-mediated activities included Internet searching, concept mapping and animations. For example, in Social Science, the students were given the task of collecting information on a particular topic from their textbook and the Internet to present the information in a concept-map along with an animation (Mifsud & Morcht 193). However, the students used the PDAs for their own purposes in the classroom and not merely for the activities defined by the teachers. All students of those four classes drew animations and they beamed to each other. They also personalized the PDAs using stickers and customized the content in the PDAs by organizing it in personally meaningful ways. Some of them also downloaded backgrounds and defined user information in order to personalize their PDAs. Indeed, those activities always appear on students. However, Mifusd also states teachers and students try to learn something together when they use PDAs, such as eChem (Mifsud & Morcht 197).
EChem is an interesting system where students can move a part of the molecule around, and in effect change the molecule. The students got funny and knew the makeup of sulphur and water. It was perhaps an indication of the bridging between student-defined and teacher-defined activates. After this research, some teachers understood student-defined activities are complex and not useless because students in four classrooms appropriated the PDAs for their own purposes- in particular, personalization and exploration what are essential abilities in studying. For this reason, people can focus on the possibility for promoting student engagement and active learning and highlight findings that point towards student-defined activities in the classroom that can approximate educational value. Mifsud argues that it is misleading to refer to student-defined activities as "off-task" ( Mifsud & Morcht 199).
Some people always get a bias on technology-aided education because they consider that such education make education cheaper and useless. However, some teachers may perceive themselves facing both a more difficult challenge but also believe that they are overcoming the challenge through effective teaching. They understand gradually the disadvantage of traditional education because some professors got research on it (Kim et al., 2011).
Kim, Carillo, Garate, Gonzales, Hagashi, Lee, and Makany chose a total of 160 students from two elementary schools. Half of them were from an elementary school which is located in an urban slum in a major city near the US-Mexico border, and another were from an elementary school which is in a rural area of Baja California. Both schools also have morning and afternoon activities and permanent teaching staffs. In addition, both school had one experimental group, which had mobile learning devices, and one control group without the mobile devices (Kim et al., 2011). They wanted to show that mobile learning devices could be effective tools for low performing students and students who also may lack educational resources outside school. Both schools were state elementary schools and had morning and afternoon programs. It made experiment more comparable and fair. At first, they trained teachers at both places to use the mobile device for one hour. Then, researchers introduced the mobile devices to the students and both school's students adopted to use the device in less than 20 minutes. In the later procedure, they lasted time for 40 minutes and encouraged students to explore the mobile devices freely and help each other on how to understand contents on the devices. The researchers indicated that students could use the devices twice a week for an average of 20 minutes. However, this procedure would be kept for 16 weeks study period (Kim et al., 2011).
For this study, each device was pre-loaded with 18 short story e-books (mobile e-books) aligned with the first grade Spanish reading curriculum. The mobile e-books were coupled with a text-to-audio feature in Spanish. Therefore, before the experiment, students did literacy pre-test because researchers want results, which showed differences between beginning and achievement. After 16 weeks learning period, students did literacy post-tests. The results revealed significant differences. The increasing rate of both experiment were greater that both control group. In the experimental groups, rural group had a high increasing rate than the Urban Group. And this phenomenon even happened in control groups. The researchers interviewed some student's parents and some interesting things emerged. It showed that 50% of the parents from the urban school claimed that their children had accessed the computers in their communities, while 85% of the rural area replied that their children did not have access to computers (Kim et al., 2011). Rural students got higher scores than urban students, but rural students even couldn't use new technology easily. The survey stated that 94% of rural school parents spent more than 5 hours a week helping their children. In contrast, 74% of urban school parents spent less than 2 hours a week working with their children (Kim et al., 2011). This may be the reason why rural students got higher scores in the both sides.
Although the experiment indicated that mobile, learning devices had great influence on improving students learning, teachers said that there were problems with the mobile learning devices. Both schools’ teachers believed that the mobile learning devices had positive effects in students’ learning. They also agreed that these devices help teachers can make the class more flexible and interesting. If teachers needed to separate the class in teams, teachers could use mobile devices to help the groups while working with another group. However, the accent of stories which per-loaded in each device was different from the Mexican native speakers. This phenomenon distracted students from focusing on the story content. What’s more, teachers reported that learning devices could not get the same processing speed easily in one class. Generally, teachers had to re-plan the class schedule, so teachers also indicated that more training with devices would help them teach students better. Therefore, sometimes it is not the students' fault, it is due to teachers' shortage.
Meanwhile, I need to verify my research that is close my life. Therefore, I interviewed Lia Lerner who is an ESL professor at PCC. She said that teachers only use "Instructor Led Training" to teach students or some teachers only speak their lecture instead of blackboard writing when she was in the university. New technology devices were not popular in the class, may be only one or two old type computers (database) in the university.
"in the past there was not much, other than TV, VCR, overhead projector vs. everything that's part of the digital era todaycomputer, digital projector, smart boards, etc. Meanwhile, awareness of students' learning styles and teaching changed based on those. In the past, learning styles were boring. But today our learning styles are flexible and various such as auditory, visual, kinesthetic, every teacher can use different methods to address all of them" (Lerner).
She even thinks that old teachers have a big challenge today, because they have to use new technology devices skillfully and also need to make their class interesting.
The development of technology is out of people's mind, and some fantastic things are created by inventors every day. Therefore, if education does not consider change, it will be out of time and will be criticized by general population. Because technology already made education easy, both instructors and students work in their studies or teaching feel more confident, efficient, and better. However, even today, some discussions and criticisms surround technology aided education, despite how essential technological-education is for our future.
Carr, Nicholas."Is Google Making US Stupid?' The Digital Divide Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the age of social networking. A member of Penguin group (USA) Inc. New York. 2011. 63-76. Print.
Lerner, Lia. Personal interview. 21 March. 2014
Mifsud, L.Mørch, A. I. "Reconsidering Off-Task: A Comparative Study of PDA. Mediated Activities in Four Classrooms."Journal of Computer Assisted Learning190- 201. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. 26 March, 2010 Web. 3 Apr.2014.
Prensky, Mare " Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants." The Digital Divide Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the age of social networking. A member of Penguin group (USA) Inc. New York. 2011.3-12. Print.
Kim, Paul, et al. "Socioeconomic strata, mobile technology, and education: A comparative analysis." Educational Technology Research and Development 59.4 (2011): 465-486.
Richtel, Matt." Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say" Nytimes.com. New York Times News, 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Nov.2014.
Spayde, Jon. "Learning in the Key of Life." The Presence of others. BEDFOR/ST. MARTIN'S. Boston& New York. 2008. 51-67. Print.