Technology, Education, and Collaborative Learning Systems (Guest post by Lindesy Wright)

Updated with links.
The use of technology in the education of younger children, from kindergarten to grade school, has become an important tool in modern education. By effectively integrating new technologies into both individual and collaborative lesson plans, parents and educators can drastically improve the educational experience of their children. Furthermore, the importance of classroom technology has grown as computer literacy becomes vital to a child’s later success in society.

By the virtue of being capable of modifying the lesson to the child's strengths, educational technology focuses on those areas most difficult to address in the general classroom setting. Educational programs to assist in reading or math can adjust their questions and procedures to match the child's growing knowledge of the subject. This permits an individualized educational experience, where children of all skill levels can all benefit equally from using the same program.

Classroom technology also can be designed to be entertaining, such as planing a lesson around an educational computer game. The use of interactive learning games and activities can help maintain the child’s interest in the activity, long after a simple book would have palled. The value of this approach is well know, but the introduction of learning technology allows it to become far more integral to the student’s learning experience.

Beyond the use of computerized games and activities, the growth of technology, such as the adaptation of eBooks to the educational process, has vastly expanded both the amount and accessibility of resources available to the children and educators alike. eBooks now have a variety of features, including text-to-speech systems that make it much easier for non-native speakers to adapt to both the spoken and written word. The inclusion of integral dictionary, spelling and thesaurus functions can also assist students in the process of independently exploring their reading material.

The use of such computerized learning systems not only helps students learn the basics, but also prepare students (even kindergarten or grade school level students) for a future where computer literacy and skill will become ever more vital. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of classroom technology is that it will ensure that even low-income students, who might not have access to computers at home, are not left behind in their understanding of technology and its uses.

Classroom technology also assists with the collaborative learning process. Via the use of school intranets, online classes, as well as chat and other social media, a child can learn with other students, even when they are not physically together. This has already become one of the strengths of classroom technology as applied to developing nations, and is growing in importance in developed nations as well. This process will assist in the development of interpersonal social skills both in and out of the classroom setting.

Finally, interactive and collaborative classroom technology makes it far easier for parents, teachers, and administrators to observe and examine the child’s progress. By making use of a variety of computer based grading and evaluation processes, it is possible to continue to tailor the educational experience to best assist the student. In addition, this permits the student’s progress to be tracked throughout his or her educational career, which can be important in detecting the early signs of learning disabilities.

The use of computer assisted classroom technology, has been demonstrated to produce better results when compared to other methods. By adopting such techniques and tailoring them for kindergarten and grade school, students, teachers and parents will all benefit greatly. Given the now ubiquitous nature of the use of information technology in society, classroom technology is not only valuable for educational purposes, but as a method to prepare children for the information age.


Liberal Arts: Personal Investment, Public Good, or Luxury Good?

Higher Education Bubble

After decades of selling college as an “investment” — and pricing it accordingly — it’s going to be hard for the higher education establishment to pivot to a college-as-personal-fulfillment argument. If it’s the latter, it’s a consumption good, priced on a par with a Porsche or Ferrari. Those shouldn’t be financed by debt, or bought by 18-year-olds. If college liberal-arts degrees, on the other hand, are to be sold as a public good, benefiting society so much that society should pay the freight, then (1) Society should have a much bigger say in what’s being taught; and (2) It might be nice to see some actual, you know, evidence of that.
Consider three possibilities:
1. The post-secondary Liberal Arts curriculum is an investment from which students will reap a financial return.
2. State support for Liberal Arts degrees provides a "public good".
3. The Liberal Arts curriculum provides "psychic income" to consumers (students) that is independent of any financial reward.

These are not mutually exclusive, but the implications, which are left as exercises for the reader, for the arguments for tax support are wildly different. Of course, there remains...

4. The post-secondary Liberal Arts degree is an employment program for due-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, which this suggests.