Undeveloped World Taps Technology for Learning
Martinez, Monica, Phi Delta Kappan
Innovation has become synonymous with "technology." That's created some consternation because there's still no consensus on effective use of technology in schools. Schools and districts rush to buy and put technology in classrooms, but they often do little more than substitute new technologies for old tools. Schools swap software programs for exercise books, tablets or laptops for pens and pencils, whiteboards for blackboards, PowerPoints for overheads, and e-readers for textbooks. But using technology in this fashion has done little more than perpetuate traditional teaching methods.
This narrow thinking about using technology will continue to create confusion in the field and limit the possibility that technology can lead to change in schools. But imagining a future without technology borders on the ridiculous. Educators must learn how to use technology to invite and enable higher-order thinking and creativity. As the Denver School of Science & Technology has said, technology "must be used to engender more intense investment and engagement by the student. It must be more effective than traditional means and enable collaboration, extrapolation, projection, analysis, demonstration, and closer, tangible interaction with the subject under study that is extremely unlikely or even impossible without it" (Zucker and Hug 2007)
While some U.S. schools are beginning to use technology more creatively and providing more personalized, collaborative, creative, and problem-solving learning, "the real potential of technology for improving learning remains largely untapped in schools today" (Lemke, Coughlin, and Reifsneider 2009). What can truly change when students and teachers are given around-the-clock access to personal computers? The field needs help imagining what this can look like and how transformative learning can truly be.
A recent report by Cisco looked at challenges facing education in developed and non-developed countries and conducted in-depth research into some of the world's leading educational innovations (Leadbeater and Wong 2010). The researchers looked at four basic strategies designed to address low aspiration and achievement in the developed world and targeted at transforming schools and learning. Only some of the examples used technology as the change agent, and, when they did, technology was used in a new way, not simply to automate processes but to inspire, engage, and connect. The researchers emphasized that innovation was created out of need and simplicity.
* Taio Rocha, working in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third-largest city, created a comprehensive learning system based on the pedagogy of play. Rocha developed more than 2,000 learning games, and local schools are using about 200. Rocha also developed new tools for learning to be organized around questions rather than knowledge, as well as an alternative assessment system called "the index of human potential." His games cover all aspects of the curriculum, and rigorous assessment shows that his games have a significant impact on the effectiveness of learning.
* The Digital Study Hall has created video content of good teachers teaching the national curriculum in India. The videos are then distributed to rural schools to address the short supply of teachers. About 30 schools in Lucknow, Calcutta, Pune, and Dhaka are using some 150 video lessons that have been created.
* Possibly the most well-known innovation is the Hole in the Wall in Hyderabad, India. An entrepreneur, Sugata Mitra, started this simply by putting a computer in a hole in the wall of his office, which backed onto a slum, to see how children would use it. Within four hours, without any help, students were surfing the Net. When Mitra took computers to a remote rural area renowned for its singing, children who had never before seen a computer needed just 24 hours to start recording their songs. Mitra's most …
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Publication information: Article title: Undeveloped World Taps Technology for Learning. Contributors: Martinez, Monica - Author. Journal title: Phi Delta Kappan. Volume: 92. Issue: 7 Publication date: April 2011. Page number: 70+. © 1999 Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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