Technology in Education
For purposes of completing this study of the use of technology in higher education, a local high school was visited, where the technology coordinator provided a demonstration of the learning systems used there. In addition, one senior-level course in Physics was attended where the advance imaging and learning technologies where shown. What was unique about this visit was how easily these technologies can be made to align with the student’s specific learning needs and requirements. This technique is called scaffolding, and is attained through the use of personalized applications and portals of the teaching systems in use (Najjar, 2008). This analysis reviews the hardware, software and support considerations, as well as discussing the technology competency skills required by educators.
Analysis of Learning Technologies in Higher Education
In teaching advanced mathematics and science courses, the high school has found that enabling greater collaboration and repetition of concepts is leading to higher test scores as well. The use of technologies to enable greater collaboration and communication as part of the leading process continues to show significant performance and accountability gains (diFilipo, 2011). The Physics classroom had a 800 Series Smart Technologies board installed, along with synchronization of student’s iPads that were on a protected Wi-Fi connection just for this system and class. This ensures that students stay only on the course content on their iPads and don’t get and check Facebook or surf the Internet while in class. There was a secured Virtual Private Network (VPN) enabled through a Cisco Systems SRP547W Platform Wireless router. The teacher was using an Apple MacBook Pro. The 800 Series Smart technologies white board interfaces directly to the MacBook Pro-using standard software provided with the projection device. In addition to the MacBook Pro-running Apple OS X, 800 Series Smart technologies whiteboard and W-Fi network enabled by the SRP547W Platform Wireless router, there were also flat panel screens towards the back of the lab as well. A relatively simple sound system with two-foot tall speakers was mounted at the front of the class. This entire hardware and software configuration could be launched within a minute and could be quickly used to show how abstract, highly complex concepts could be reduced to step-by-step instructions and graphical examples. The emerging best practices of creating effective learning systems and platforms is predicated on an immersive multimedia experience for students to gain greater insights than would be possible through didactic approaches to teaching alone (Adonis, 2006).
Assessing The Technology and Competency Skills of the Instructor
Teaching mathematics and physics at the senior level in a high school known for its prowess in these subjects requires extensive educational experience. The instructor teaching this course clearly had a very solid foundational of expertise with physics and was able to demonstrate how even the most complex concepts could be broken down into manageable, understandable parts. The highly collaborative nature of the smart board helped as she literally pulled apart complex concepts to show how they were interrelated to each other. The skill set from a technology standpoint this instructor showed included advanced experience with the Macintosh operating system and its many applications, in addition to how a given series of mathematics and physics applications could be quickly modified to show concepts. The supporting VPN-protected network with access just to the smart board content worked reliably and was immediately viable on student’s iPads and tablets. The database of courseware was the most complex application on the MacBook Pro, the contents of which were projected on the screen during the start of class. Databases serve as the foundation of the current and future generations of educational applications and understanding their nuances is critical to the success of an educator (Pons, 2003). The instructor was able to navigate through multiple levels and options of a physics database to tie together several complex concepts. Watching the instructor navigate through the many options showed that she had spent many hours in these applications as her expertise saved time and lead to the class getting started early. From observing this teaching approach enabled with technology, it was clear that she also understood how to use the scaffolding and personalization aspects of the technology as well. Scaffolding is highly effective in mathematical and science courses in that it tailors the lesson to the student exceptionally well (Najjar, 2008).
The use of technologies in education is progressively rapidly as the long-held assumptions of education are increasingly questioned as to their effectiveness. Didactic, often memorization-driven learning is giving way to more interactive approaches. The classroom visited underscored these factors and showed how powerful they are when used by an instructor who thoroughly understands the key concepts and frameworks being presented.
Adonis, A. (2006). Technology in schools. The British Journal of Administrative Management,, 14-15.
diFilipo, S. (2011). Connecting the dots to the future of technology in higher education. EDUCAUSE Review, 46(4), 58.
Najjar, M. (2008). On scaffolding adaptive teaching prompts within virtual labs. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 6(2), 35-54.
Pons, A.P. (2003). Database tuning and its role in information technology education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 14(4), 381-387.
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