Emerging Technologies in Education: How Colleges Can Learn From Student Behavior

With so many new technological developments, colleges are having a hard time deciding which tools to use, which to discard and how to figure that out. The answers depend on the school: what their research, educational and financial goals are. From the perspective of student experiences and behavior, institutions cannot possibly proceed fast enough to accommodate their needs. For example, the medical school students sometimes (but should always) have access to computing that includes 3-d modeling of patients that includes “game” like practice. Surgeons practice surgery without having to work on a person… yet. And future ER doctors and nurses practice on dolls that include programs that react as they would in an emergency situation.

While that seems like these technologies are the “coolest” thing around, what actually is making the biggest impact on the student experience is the utilization of cloud computing. Students do work online… not just attend online classes, but research, write papers, study with other students and they also store their work there. They carry around objects that allow this learning anywhere they are. While the traditional student a few short years ago was trapped in their dorm room, books in stacks all around, debating whether or not to hang out or stay home and study, these students can work on their way to class, waiting in line at the store or at the doctor’s office, etc. Their books are more often than not available online. The research that they do via the library catalog allows them to search not only the physical books but also databases for peer-reviewed material and ebooks in an instant. And, rather than printing out or downloading the information, they simply remember where it was or keep track of the information via tools that record their searches. (Many of these tools are available currently in the databases.)

Most of the students I work with have laptops or tablets and nearly all of them have smartphones. Panera, McDonald’s, Krystal’s and other restaurants have all made wireless available for free, so these are places where you will see students. Although, let me clarify, most of those students are over 30. The Y-generation students, however, are utilizing wireless technology via the cell phone and apps that get them online for free. They are able to access the internet anywhere there is a cellular signal… And that is much more prevalent than wireless that is attached to a building or cable line. It is a little bit slower on 3g, but on 4g, it is almost like you are actually wired directly to a DSL line.

With tools like GoogleDocs, Dropbox, and other cloud based editors and storage places, the ability of the research student to keep track of their research is much broader than it ever was. Also, the students can now easily cite any material that they find online (again, via their tablet, phone, laptop). The paper they are working on is being written and cited simultaneously. There are millions of phone applications (many are free) that allow students to practice surgery, deal with a patient that is in cardiac arrest and learn how to assess a patient with Alzheimer’s (on the phone or computer). They can look at 3-d versions of any part of the human anatomy (inside and out) and view thousands of MRIs, CT scans, X-rays and videos of actual procedures. Academicians need to see that these technologies are there and students are utilizing them.

Oh, and they can talk to their Grandma on Facebook. The social networking platform and text messaging keeps students in touch with each other so that the student learning experience is integrated with the social.

The ability for human beings, not necessarily gifted, geeky or introverted, to interact with technology in ways that enhance the “human” experience, such as sharing, loving, talking, arguing, turned computing into an extension of living. The human behavioral side of things is what will continue to evolve businesses, governments, research and education radically over the next few years (moments) in ways that traditional, bureaucratic or money-driven organizations can’t even see yet. The people will influence virally.

There are many more emerging technologies that go way beyond the ones mentioned here, from foldable or 3d displays, “sixth sense” technology, crowdsourcing and free classes at MIT, our world is evolving faster than we can ever dream of catching up with.

Video Conferencing Technology and Education

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on video conferencing and education. Part 1: The Teaching Predicament primarily focuses on the dilemma that educational institutes around the world have been facing in terms of teaching.

Over the recent years, visual communication as an effective tool to enhance delivery of education has gained a lot of traction. Educational institutes are constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining consistency and quality of teaching over geographically dispersed branches. For instance, will a student enrolled in an undergraduate business studies program at a top tier American university experience the same teaching quality in the Middle East or Europe? The answer to this question will most likely be ‘not quite’. Although there are a number of variables at play here but the most fundamental challenge is access to the same quality of instructors across geographical regions. Geographical regions can typify different branches in the same city, across cities, countries and continents. Maintaining teaching standards across continents is even a bigger challenge given the social, cultural and ethnic divides.

A traditional approach to somewhat alleviate the problem is to fly in faculty periodically to conduct workshops. However, this can prove to be very costly and cumbersome. Technology has an answer for this common and age-old problem. Although video conferencing solutions have been around since the 1980s, they’ve never been so affordable and accessible as they are today. Visual communication technology has advanced leaps and bounds making it highly immersive and interactive. More importantly, the bandwidth and the infrastructure that is required to support a truly interactive video conference is ever more affordable and ubiquitous now. This makes videoconferencing a viable and practical learning tool for the classroom. Truly interactive visual communication can add a level of teaching consistency across multiple institutes.

Full HD 1080p video, 360-degree audio combined with interactive whiteboards and multiple cameras provide the next best thing to being physically present in a classroom. Video conferencing technology has truly reinvented how teachers and students interaction. From sharing lecture notes and feedback to carrying out assignments and group work, a video conference setup in a classroom knows no geographical boundaries. The selection of video conferencing equipment however may appear to be daunting initially with the sheer amount of options available. I personally prefer Panasonic Video Conferencing.

Panasonic is a manufacturer of state-of-the-art Video Conferencing equipment. Their Visual Communication technology combines full 1080i video coupled with advanced compression algorithms connecting you with colleagues and experts around the world on standard broadband connections. 360° HD Full Duplex Audio with echo cancellation technology combined with stunning video provides a truly immersive and collaborative video conference.

The Value of Technology in Educating Young Children

Are young children well suited to the use of technology? Modern technologies are very powerful because they rely on one of the most powerful genetic biases we do have – the preference for visually presented information. The human brain has a tremendous bias for visually presented information. Television, movies, videos, and most computer programs are very visually oriented and therefore attract and maintain the attention of young children. When young children sit in front of television for hours, they fail to develop other perceptions. But the technologies that benefit young children the greatest are those that are interactive and allow the child to develop their curiosity, problem solving and independent thinking skills.

Technology plays a key role in all aspects of American life which will only increase in the future. As technology has become more easy to use, the usage of it by children has simultaneously increased. Early childhood educators have a responsibility to critically examine the impact of technology on children and be prepared to use technology to benefit children. Children educators must be more responsible in bringing a change in the lives of children and their families.

There are several issues related to the use of technology by young children:

• the essential role of teacher in evaluating in evaluating appropriate use of technology.
• the amalgamation of technology in early childhood programs
• stereotyping and violence in software
• equitable access to technology
• implication of technology for professional development
• role of teachers and parents as advocates

A teacher’s role is critical in making good decisions regarding the use of technology in order to achieve potential benefits. Choosing the correct software is quite similar to choosing the perfect set of books for a classroom. Teachers should take the advantage of computers to introduce new teaching and development strategies. Computers are intrinsically compelling for young children. The sound and graphics attract a child’s attention. An appropriate software engages children in creative play, mastery learning, problem solving, and conversation. Children control the pacing and the action. They can repeat a process or activity as often as they like and experiment with variations. They can collaborate in making decisions and share their discoveries and creations. Well-designed early childhood software grows in dimension with the child, enabling her to find new challenges as she becomes more proficient. Appropriate visual and verbal prompts designed in the software expand play themes and opportunities while leaving the child in control. Vast collections of images, sounds, and information of all kinds are placed at the child’s disposal. Software can be made age appropriate even for children as young as three or four. This shows that technology can enhance a child’s cognitive and social abilities. It provides a window to a child’s thinking.

Every classroom has its own guiding philosophies, values, themes and activities. Early childhood educators should promote equitable access to technology for all children and their families. Modern technologies are very powerful as they rely on one of the most powerful biases we have. The problem with this is that many of the modern technologies are very passive. Because of this they do not provide children with the quality and quantity of crucial emotional, social, cognitive, or physical experiences they require when they are young.

Unfortunately, technology is often used to replace social situations but it should be used to enhance human interactions. During the current decade, research has moved beyond simple questions about technology. Very young children are showing comfort and confidence in handling computers. They can turn them on, follow pictorial directions, and use situational and visual cues to understand and reason about their activity. Typing on the keyboard does not seem to cause them any trouble; in fact, it seems to be a source of pride. Thanks to recent technological developments, even children with physical and emotional disabilities can use the computer with ease. Besides enhancing their mobility and sense of control, computers can help improve self-esteem.

Thus the exclusive value of technology is no more in question. Research shows that what is solid for children is not merely what is physical but what is meaningful. Computer representations are often more manageable, flexible, and extensible. To add more there are a number of specialized programs that allow children with certain information-processing problems to get a multimedia presentation of content so that they can better understand and process the material. Even now there are a number of good software programs with a primary educational focus on mathematics or reading. These programs, which are very engaging, motivate children to read better and learn how to solve math problems. When information is presented in a fun and way, it is a lot easier than looking at a single page that has a bunch of columns of numbers you’re supposed to add up.

We are always in search for the magic wand that vanish and solve all our programs. And today the magic wand in our life is technology. It not only increases academic skill, reduce dropout rates but also diminishes the racial divide in academic performance. The danger, however, is that computers will be used only to reinforce the national trend toward earlier and more academic skill acquisition, and that other important developmental needs will be ignored. Moreover the fear will remain that developmental needs not met through technology will be ignored or radically compromised: physical play, outdoor exploration of the community and of nature; art, music and dance; learning specific social skills and moral values, and experiencing diversity in a myriad of ways.

In most of the early childhood programs and schools, technology will be part of the learning landscape of the future. To make sure this new technology is used effectively, we must assure that teachers are fully trained and supported, and that the programs and internet sites used are developmentally appropriate, non racist, non-biased against people with disabilities, and respect religious differences.