Friday, August 10, 2012

The Role of Technology in Education

Arne Duncan declared August connected educator month. There are countless advantages to being connected, and numerous resources available like this one to guide new teachers into the connected world. As I explained in this piece for SmartBlogs, I have personally benefited from being connected by learning about numerous technology tools, pedagogical suggestions, and the evolution of my content area.

As Mary Beth Hertz wrote in this piece, connected educators are at the beginning of the innovation curve when it comes to using technology to further our learning and grow professionally.

I just finished reading this paper by Aaron DeNu, a buddy of mine for over ten years who attended graduate school at Fordham University and Harvard University and is pursuing PHD coursework at The George Washington University. As he pointed out “It’s tragic when we can’t be together, and with an increasingly separated society, we’ve turned to interface technologies to alleviate detachment. Often, technology bridges the communicational gap by reducing time and space constraints. The interface brings us together which, in turn, creates a new communicational paradigm.”

For educators, his insight is spot on with being a connected educator, and translates into flat classrooms for students. With that said, let’s make sure we do not confuse the value for teachers to improve by being connected or students to collaborate using technology with exclusive online student learning.

Exclusive online learning can be valuable for some. When I decided to teach, I had the choice between attending Xavier University and the University of Phoenix. I could not attend Xavier because my first son was just born, my wife still worked, and I was holding down a full-time job. Class hours did not fit with our circumstances so online learning opened the doors to my education. Many teachers face the same constraints and choose an online graduate school education.

Most of us are mature enough, and certainly motivated enough to learn online. I see the service as valuable for adults because we have adult responsibilities and need flexible learning opportunities. As Denu points out “The use of an interface can only be viewed as a tragic alternative. It is simply a substitute—a bridge.”

DeNu continues “An interface is especially deficient in fulfilling a channel for bodily warmth, touch, and smell (Gumpert & Cathcart). Consequently, this effort at communicating ‘denies us most of the sensory means of communication control and verification present in intimate situations’ (Gumpert & Cathcart).” This certainly translates into the consequences of exclusive or primary online learning for K-12 students.

In other words, technology has created countless tools that help teachers and students. Let’s make sure as technology continues to evolve that our classrooms are student-centered and teacher-led.

About Aaron DeNu: Aaron DeNu holds a position in communication and technology management at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He attended Wilmington College (Ohio) where he studied computer science and history. His Master’s Essay at Fordham University focused on the effects of technology on human interaction--specifically interface technologies and their pedagogical implications. While working towards his M.A. at Fordham University, he completed additional coursework at Harvard University. Most recently, he has expanded upon his anthropological scholarship with further graduate studies at The George Washington University.

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