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July 31, 2013

Technological: Education of the technological generation

by Harini Salgado, Online Entertainment Editor
It's hard to believe how much technology has changed over the past twenty years. Home computers became popular and with that came the advent of widespread Internet use and laptops. From clunky bricks used only to make calls, cell phones have evolved to become mini computers that can take pictures, browse the web and play videos. Every year, as new technology is created, more children are born who will not remember a time when there weren't smart phones, Wi-Fi and social networks, when technology and the Internet were not huge parts of our life. With that in mind, schools need to adapt to include more technology in the educational process to keep students entertained, as well as support their learning in new ways.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has incorporated a lot of technology into the education system. We use the internet as well as books to research topics and check our grades through Edline. MCPS also spent a lot of money buying Promethean Activboards to help enhance the educational process. However, while these are just a few of the basic things that can be done with new technology, there are many more ways that technology can be used to change courses.

Teachers who use the idea of "flipped learning" in their classrooms ask students to watch Khan Academy videos or similar videos they have made themselves for homework. Courtesy of TrikeApps
Teachers who use the idea of "flipped learning" in their classrooms ask students to watch Khan Academy videos or similar videos they have made themselves for homework.
One interesting way many teachers are incorporating technology into lessons is through the concept of "flipped learning," which switches the traditional idea of having a lecture/lesson in the classroom and having practice exercises for homework. Instead, teachers film a video of their lesson, similar to the popular Khan Academy videos, and then post them online on their websites or on YouTube for their students to watch for homework. This allows them to learn at their own pace, pausing, rewinding or fast forwarding in order to understand the material. If their students do not have Internet access, they copy them onto DVDs. Class time can then be used to go over practical applications of the concepts the students learn in videos through interesting projects, practice problems, labs, discussions and even filming their own videos. Teachers interact with the students, answering questions and helping them learn the lesson.

The idea of "flipped learning" first started developing when Aaron Sams and Jonathon Bergmann, two Colorado high school chemistry teachers, started filming videos for their absent students and soon started giving students videos to watch for homework. The concept is spreading as many new teachers have been adopting the idea for their own classrooms. In January 2013, Flipped Learning Network, the online community for flipped learning teachers, had 10,000 members. According to a Huffington Post article, flipped classrooms are often met with success, with more student interest in classes, better grades and improved attendance.

There are many other ways that technology is improving education around the world. For example, at the National University in Singapore, a computer programming class was taught through an online role-playing game set in a universe similar to Star Wars where assignments and activities became "missions" and "side quests" and points were assigned. There were also leaderboards and levels to help motivate students and mission feeds for the students to discuss missions with teaching staff. The paper, published after the first year of the program said that many of the students thought that the game helped make the class more interesting and unanimously agreed that it helped reinforce their lessons, with 61% strongly agreeing so. It also encouraged students to procrastinate less with the average assignment submission time improving from 15.5 hours before the deadline to 51.2 hours before.

School systems and teachers need to continue figuring out new and exciting ways to include technology in classes to support students and help them focus on what they are learning. If these are just some of the new ways technology is being used to support education, imagine what school might be like in fifteen years.



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