2 Fundamental Ways Technology Improves Learning

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lastquest

This is a contributed post by Jenna Smith

It doesn’t matter what you want to learn, whether it’s how to play the piano, solve advanced calculus problems, or cook gourmet French food, technology can help you do it.

A simple example of this is biologcal dissection. Twenty years ago, all over the country, high school students were forced to cut into and explore the innards of a variety of small animals: frogs, rats, worms, and—for those in advanced classes—cats. It was traumatizing for many students, distracted from the biology of it all, and was expensive for the schools to boot (frogs, despite what you might believe, are not cheap).

Today, the same dissections are done via the computer. A simulated cat is presented to the students on screen who can us a variety of tools (including styluses that “behave” the same way a scalpel would behave) to “dissect” the animal on the screen in front of them. The lessons are the same but there are no worries over distraction, mess, complexity, or the storage of chemical-laden amphibian carcasses. Technology has complexity of its own, and challenges to overcome, but these challenges are interdependent and value-adding; solutions here improve the entire learning process.

1. Collaboration

Teachers are also able to harness technology to better track a student’s progress on assignments. Not so long ago, teachers would have to hope and trust and rely upon graded benchmarks to get to see the progress students were making on assignments. Thanks to shared spaces in the cloud, today Edmodo, Dropbox, Zoho, Google Drive and other software allow the tracking of changes and the making of notes. A teacher can log in, see the progress a student is making, make notes to help guide the student and ensure that the student is on track. And any revisions, comments, or other inputs can be seen by students, other teachers, and parents as well. This same technology makes group projects easier, promoting collaboration, encouraging revision, and allowing for mobile access to files.

This kind of potential is easy to take for granted.

Technology has also made it easier for teachers to better help students with different learning styles. Finding videos, software programs, etc for students who don’t learn well via traditional methods is cheaper and easier than ever. YouTube, Learnist, pinterest, iTunesU and other sources provide students with a constant stream of content that appeals to multiple learning styles.

2. Self-Directed Learning

And perhaps the best thing about all of these advancements is how accessible self-directed learning is. If you want to learn how to do something, like knit, you can go online and find web-based classes, groups and lessons to help you develop this chosen skill—and often for free! You aren’t forced to rely upon outdated books or a costly tutor who might not be able to explain things or teach things to best fit your learning style.

In fact, self-directed learning is among the most natural responses to the modern access to information technology brings. And though self-directed learning is usually spoken of outside of school itself, it can also be embedded into a formal learning environment to supplement direct instruction and peer-tutoring, and can even be a part of project-based learning as well.

Image attribution flickr user lastquest