Thursday, July 1, 2010
The Digital Divide
In the new vision of challenging learning activities, the curriculum for all students would emphasize the integration of higher order thinking skills, authentic tasks, and mixed-ability groupings. This vision of classrooms structured around student involvement in challenging, long-term projects and focused on engaged learning is important for all students. The key elements of student engagement are: student confidence, teacher involvement, choices of activities (teachers who let students choose assignments), and clearly stated goals.
According to Marc Prensky, (Prensky, 2001), "We now have a new generation with a very different blend of cognitive skills than it's predecessors - the Digital Natives". Children who are raised with the computer "think differently than the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around" (Prensky, 2001). As a result of their experiences, Digital Natives crave interactivity - an immediate response to each and every action. Research on classrooms that have put constructivist teaching and learning models into practice also indicates that technology can enhance student engagement and productivity (Robler & Doering). Technology can also help students develop positive cooperative learning relationships, enabling them to work together while researching topics and creating presentations.
Teachers should be concerned first with good curricular content and second with the incorporation of technology. Bruce and Levin (1997), for example, look at ways in which the tools, techniques, and applications of technology can support integrated, inquiry based learning to "engage students in exploring, thinking, reading, writing, researching, inventing, problem-solving, and experiencing the world". They developed the idea of technology as media, with four different focuses: media for inquiry (such as date modeling, spreadsheets, access to online databases, access to online observatories and microscopes, and hypertext); media for communication (such as wordprocessing, e-mail, synchronous conferencing, graphics software, simulations and tutorials), media for construction (such as robotics, CAD and control systems), and media for expressions (such as interactive video, animation software, and music composition).
The ideal classroom has technology that complements what a teacher does naturally, extending their reach and broadening their student's experience beyond the classroom. I couldn't help thinking as I watched the videos that technology removes the walls of the classroom and allows the student to travel beyond his world. For instance, animation that reveals hidden worlds: inside a human body, the construction of the Coliseum, or the side effects of cancer treatment. This constructivist approach would be especially advantageous to at-risk and disabled children, as well. Technology increases the complexity of the tasks that students can perform successfully, raises student motivation, and moves the classroom toward student self-reliance, peer coaching, and teacher facilitators.