07 October 2012

Students on Steroids

No, this is not a controversial sports post, but about what Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, calls the technological "steroids" that are creating a "flatter" world. Friedman writes:

        "I call certain new technologies the steroids, because they are amplifying 
         and turbocharging all the other flatteners." (Friedman, 187)

By flatteners, he means the technologies that are making it easier for everyone to be more connected and have a more equal chance to participate globally. The "steroids" he mentions are the technologies that speed up connectivity, allow for transfer of more data more quickly to anywhere in the world. He points out that "year after year we have been able to digitize, shape, crunch, and transmit more words, music, data and entertainment than ever before" (Friedman, 188). So the question is: what does this mean for students and teachers?

The students of today are natives of this technological wave, they are the people who will most easily navigate and adapt with the technology that is already shaping their lives in so many ways. This inundation with technology in our everyday lives has spread to education already with the prospect of many schools moving towards ubiquitous (or 1 to 1) computing. While bringing technology to the classroom has been an ongoing process for a while, this kind of transition will force a change in the way that teaching and learning are viewed. Rather than having some teachers believe that project-based and student-centered learning are the key to continued success, teachers will be forced to see that traditional, lecture-style teaching methods will no longer be appropriate in ubiquitous computing settings.

While many students are familiar with the "steriods" Friedman refers to and would love to use them in the school setting, they may not particularly understand what changing to a student-centered learning style will entail. This is not just a change for teachers, but a major change for students. They can no longer rely on sitting and half listening to a lecture and asking a few questions in class to cover their grades. Student-centered learning requires students to take initiative in their own educations. While this involves more choice (usually seen as an advantage to the students), they will also have to help drive themselves and be more ambitious if they want to succeed in school.

So are these steroids, which will allow students to engage their peers and information in new and exciting ways, going to help them by relieving some of the academic pressure of studying and finding information? Or is it going to make their jobs as students much more difficult with every higher standards of presentation and engagement?

The answer may be "both".

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