How Can We Use Advanced Technology To Support Education?
contributed by Anne Davis
The limits of the modern classroom are, in many ways, the limits of technology.
For thousands of years, the easiest method of transferring information from one person to another was via speech. Pack a space with people and the transfer effect becomes exponential. The result has been – in one form or another – a classroom model that has remained relatively unchanged since the dawn of human history.
The development of written language and its role in the preservation and transfer of information is equally demonstrative of the limits of technology. Until the age of computers, no method of transferring knowledge could compete with the printed word. In a sense, the alphabet was and remains the original program code.
These time-tested methods of teaching are relatively unchanged for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t altered by the changes in technology over time. The best educators in the world seize on new technology to augment their existing curricula. While classrooms and textbooks remain an ever-present part of education – especially since becoming available virtually via online classes and digital copies – they are increasingly being improved upon with the incorporation of high-tech into academia.
The impact of advanced technology on education has been most noticeably felt at the collegiate level, particularly in STEM-related fields of study. For example, students enrolled in undergraduate architecture programs are able to grasp the fundamentals and complexities of building design thanks to a number of technologies which weren’t available to them 20 or even 10 years ago. While they’re still being educated in ‘traditional’ classroom and lecture hall settings, their learning experience is strengthened by the addition of advanced technology.
One such advanced technology having an impact on engineering and related fields is 3D printing. A 3D printer can be used to bring computer-generated building designs to life for professors to use as examples and students to use as a way to see their plans visualized to-scale. This is a significant leap from the days of painstaking drawings and model assembly, much of which was reserved for third or fourth-year students. The cost-effective and time-efficient attributes of 3D printing has proven to be a gamechanger in educating the engineers and architects of the future.
Virtual simulators for hands-on training is another way advanced technology is supporting higher education. Students enrolled in dental school are now using virtual reality programs to hone their skills at filling cavities and other procedures. While literal hands-on training is still valued, these simulators allow for a more practical form of practice.
Other Changes In Education Technology
College isn’t the only place where advanced technology is augmenting education. The effect is also being felt in trade schools and training courses worldwide. In places where the traditional requirements for successful learning are logistically difficult to achieve due to supply issues and limited personnel, high-tech resources help to bridge the gap. Aspiring carpenters, plumbers, and other hands-on specialists in developing parts of the world have an opportunity to be trained despite the shortcomings of their environment. This allows them to turn around and quickly put their education to practice in order to improve these communities.
Elementary school-age children, as well as those in middle school and high school, are also experiencing the benefits of tech-infused education. For example, those under the age of 16 now have the chance to know what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a high-speed moving vehicle without running the risk of getting into an accident. This extends the potential to teach driver’s ed to those as young as 10, giving them six years to learn how to drive versus only one or two today.
Is using advanced technology in the classroom a new phenomenon? Not exactly. It’s a tradition that goes back to antiquity and probably longer. Ever heard of a little thing called a chalkboard? That’s an example of a revolutionary technology in education at the time. There’s another former high-tech device used in the classroom known as the pencil – perhaps you’ve encountered one or two in your life? Overhead projectors and radio broadcast lessons are other examples of former advanced technology utilized for education.
In terms of impact both in the short-term and long-term scope of education, few technologies compare to video courses online. From the Khan Academy to YouTube, the internet is jam-packed with quality educational content for anyone with a device and a connection to view. Men and women around the globe can now access knowledge via video which used to require enrolling in a brick and mortar school to learn. What’s more, they can learn at their own pace.
There’s a reason we’ve counted on books and classrooms as the foundations of education for centuries. Insofar as they are able, they ‘work’ and so will continue to be used in different ways for years to come. But, increasingly, they also will continue to be augmented by emerging technologies–and over time, this is how technology changes education.