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Five ways to improve technology in education

Monster teaching Monsters
I was fortunate enough to see David Pogue's keynote on the opening day of the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference this Monday in Hershey, PA. PETE&C is a state-wide conference aimed at bringing together school technology directors, teachers, principals, IT professionals, and vendors to advance the state of technology in education.

While listening to Pogue briefly touch on many emerging trends and technologies like VoIP, improved text-to-speech, "Web 2.0" sites, and ubiquitous wireless, it became clear from the audience gasps and collective jaw-dropping that educators are not keeping up with technology changes. Demonstrations of technologies that have been around for more than two years were causing the educators to feverishly put pen to paper so they can take things like Skype back to their schools to use in the curriculum.

It's important for our educators to understand and adapt new technologies so that students can benefit from read/write instruction instead of a stale, read-only education. To help them along, here are five ways to improve technology in education:

Stay informed
Use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to keep up with technology news and events. To use RSS you'll need an RSS reader like Google Reader, NetNewsWire (Mac), or FeedDemon (Windows) to read RSS feeds. An RSS feed is basically a dynamic link that updates your RSS reader when new content is posted to a website (click the "RSS Feeds" button under our search bar to see examples).

You can also subscribe to technology newsletters, and talk to students about websites and web services they use on their own. A majority of teachers do not know what Stickam or Meebo are, yet these sites are used daily by many of their students.

Learning with MacsFocus on the learning process, not the end product
When little Susie uses iMovie to create a video of her class field trip to Cape Canaveral, she should be evaluated on what she's learned through the creative process, not how many wipes and sound effects she used in her final movie file. The quality and relativity of the still pictures she took by learning how to use a digital camera, or video footage from a well-designed storyboard are better barometers of a successful project.

Work with IT professionals who understand education
I work on the IT side of education daily, and I know it's important to unfetter technology at a school to stimulate the learning process. IT staff must be willing to bend on certain security measures and trust students with equipment so that they can be creative and not boxed in. We let students take laptops home to work on approved projects, which ultimately motivates their peers to do the same. We also have a dedicated instructional adviser who helps teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans. This often helps ease the teachers' modification of antiquated lessons.

Become a user
Make a Facebook account so you can understand the allure of social-networking sites. Add some information about yourself. Locate former school pals. Join some groups. This will let you see sites like Faceook from a student's perspective.

To collaborate and share course materials, you can create a Moodle site for your class, or start a class blog. Students benefit more from teachers who collaborate and less from teachers who force-feed lectures. Also, it's much easier to teach about something that you've actually used in depth. It's time to break the stigma of "those that can, do; those that can't, teach."

Go on creatingDon't be afraid of change
Some teachers think that upgrading from Office 2003 to 2007 is using the latest technology. However, a Word document is still words and formatting meant for someone to read. Instead of being satisfied with word processing in a new version of software, why not let students create a school "newspaper" on something like Joomla. The news could be updated in seconds, it could be interactive (comments, updates, etc.), and it could include user-submitted media. Google Earth could be used to give an elementary student global perspective by flying in from a world view down to the roof of his home.

If educators can step out of the education bubble to incorporate real-world technology into their lessons, students will greatly benefit. Instead of avoiding new technologies either because of misinformation or fear of change, educators should embrace change to prepare students for life after organized education.

Tags: education, school, teachers, technology, Technology in Education, TechnologyInEducation, tweet-this