I believe the purpose of education is to enrich life by fostering passions and preparing individuals for their career. Public education is both a service by the government for the people and a necessity for a stable economy. I believe the purpose of technology in education is solely to help education, by which I will outline in the following writing.
Collaboration: Technology allows for unprecedented global collaboration. The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry were founded in 1912 after the first world physics conference in 1911. They held conferences every three years or so including the 1927 conference on photons and electrons which of the twenty-nine attendees, seventeen of became nobel prize winners. Today, global physics conferences can be held every day with technology such as Skype, Elluminate and Google Docs and teachers can share their tutorials with Lon-CAPA. For the past three Wednesdays, I have jumped in on the Global Physics Department meetings held by physics teachers looking to improve their craft. Collaboration is necessary for teachers to not only improve, but become initially adequate. Technology also allows students to collaborate. Students can work in groups on presentations from their house after school, eliminating transportation as an obstacle. They can also work with students across the globe to increase their foreign language fluency or learn how science affects their culture or environment differently.
Simulation: Especially in science, technology allows students to learn from simulations. WolframAlpha can instantly graph functions in three dimensions, something that is very difficult to do on a chalkboard. I learned from the 5/27 Global Physics Department meeting about vPython, an open source tool that students can use to model physics. Mastering Physics is a “physics homework system” that has applications for various topics where students can explore the effects of changing variables. For instance, I remember being able to see how the spacing and number of slits changes the diffraction pattern of light. It takes time to make drawings of these things but a program can do so instantly.
Management: Technology can be a great tool for classroom management. Although it has mixed reviews, companies such as Mastering Physics sell services that include simulation, tutorials, homework and grading all in one. Many colleges at the University of Maine have made their own online-homework program or subscribe to a content management system. Teachers can post assignments on Twitter so that their students always know what they have to do, and put videos on Youtube of demonstrations or lectures such as MillerPhysics1 or Veritasium. Lon-CAPPA and the Khan Academy
Exploration: I have spent hours exploring the internet with websites like TED, Stumbleupon, Youtube, Google, Wired, Forbes, Twitter, PBS and my favorite blogs. Exploration is my favorite part of learning because I like to do things on my terms. Exploration makes a student unique. In college, students are just another number and there are thousands of students with the same exact degree that graduate every year. I will be different from other physics education majors because I have explored into entrepreneurship where my peers might have explored into computer programming.
Stimulation: For some reason it is just fun to use technology. The students at the Asa Adams Elementary school loved practicing grammar on the Smartboard. Also, I’d much rather watch videos online and use interactive tutorials than read a textbook. People learn better when they are engaged, and technology can engage students.
There is no point in using technology just to use it. In 2003, I was in the first generation of seventh graders in Maine to receive a laptop for the school year. It was definitely exciting, but did not have its intended effect because the teachers did not know how to implement the technology. Teachers would schedule specific class periods to use the laptops instead of integrating them into everyday use. Out of the twenty students in the class, a couple would always have tech problems and the teacher would spend the class trying to fix it instead of helping students learn. If implemented well, technology can change education to be more rich and fulfilling, but there is little point in having students use it just to appease the administration. Heidi Hayes Jacobs said at her TED talk that she is against educational reform. She wants new forms of education – instead of writing an essay on Julius Ceasar, make his Facebook page.
If the purpose of education is to enrich life by preparing people for careers and fostering passion, then technology is a necessary tool. However, technology cannot be thought of as a tool. It has to be integrated in curriculum for it to have the positive benefits. If teachers set aside time for technology, it is just going to frustrate them.