School System Encounters Radical Change
Countless learning facilities across the United States, ranging from elementary school to college, are currently undergoing a major change from traditional textbooks to online curricula. Many classrooms now conduct 100% of their studies via technology; students are using both computers and iPads to research all the required information and take tests. The new system, which is called the Digital Conversion, is being utilized in brick-and-mortar schools as well as cyber-schools, which are also increasing in number.
The Digital Conversion has been a center of controversy since it began over a decade ago. One side, which supports the new system, argues that it creates a much more appealing and efficient learning environment for students, while those who oppose the conversion say that it creates distractions and discourages social interaction. While both of these arguments have equal merit, a significant amount of new information shows some very definitive results.
Is this Beneficial to our Students?
On November 22nd, 2013, the United States Senate held a committee field hearing entitled Educating for the 21st Century – Bringing Today’s Classrooms into the Digital Age in North Carolina. All of the expert witnesses present at the hearing were professional educators from within the state, save one high school student who delivered a personal testimony on the subject. The purpose of the hearing was to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the digital educational system.
A 5th grade teacher named Sean O’Leary, who is an advocate of the Digital Conversion, stated the following:
“…I want to clear up some misconceptions pertaining to technology in the classroom. Many people are quick to jump to the conclusion that placing iPads or laptops into the classroom is what teachers want because it makes our job ‘easier’….I do think that having access to technology makes the classroom more efficient but never ‘easier’. It is my finding that the access to technology actually creates many opportunities to challenge ourselves in the classroom and grow as 21st century learners.”
O’Leary goes on to say that with the increased efficiency comes a greater need to strictly manage and monitor the students, but defends the extra work as a way that teachers can be more effective to their students. Another advocate – a 6th grade teacher named Raha Obaei – said this:
“If Johnny comes up to me on a 3rd grade reading level he won’t become frustrated because of a text he cannot read. I have a wide variety of resources available at my fingertips to better educate each of my students….”
“As educators, we’re expected to do so much with so very little, and instead of sitting down and getting to the root of the issue, which is the student, we throw technology at the problem.”
She went on to say that “Gadgets go out of date, humans do not.” In addition to this expert insight, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement conducted a study showing that with the efficiency of technology comes a breakdown of student-teacher roles; the computer can ultimately become the new teacher, and the teacher becomes simply a moderator.
When we analyze the distinct advantages and disadvantages of the Digital Conversion, the next major step is deciding where and how it should be implemented for the best possible results. This way, each individual student can get the most out of what our educational system has to offer.