14 Feb Technology puts pressure on old education methods
Madison, Wis. — A blend of mobile, electronic learning techniques could be the future of education.
Judy Brown, an analyst of emerging technology for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Academic ADL Co-Lab, spoke to the Madison chapter of the World Future Society last Thursday night about the developing trend dubbed “me learning”. Studying developments in hardware and culture, Brown talked about where developers are succeeding and where the work needs to go.
Brown said that education needs to adapt to cultural changes. Groups she called the “millenials” and “digital natives” are used to getting a lot done in a short amount of time, enjoying themselves at “twitch speed” and expecting to learn that way.
The spread of technology is creating a generation gap. The fastest-growing technology market is now children five to seven. Twenty-six percent of teenagers access foreign news outlets daily, and 70 percent say that they would sooner give up television than the Internet.
“They can be in their room [alone] and are so social,” Brown said. “I contend that we in education have an opportunity … I’m sure we have someone around who’s expert in something you’re looking for.”
Brown pointed to iPods as an example of common technology being converted to educational purposes. Duke University begun distributing iPods to incoming students so they can hear lecture notes, and more and more students using “podcasting” to automatically receive audio files as they become available.
Some professors have taken the trend further, converting their students’ essays to audio format so they can listen to them while driving to class. They can then make verbal comments.
Other examples of successful mobile technology include an electronic pen that, after writing on a medical chart, can store the data through an electronic “inkwell”, a pen that can write music and then play it back, and laser projectors that create functioning keyboards on flat tabletops.
Brown said that while mobile technology is growing each year, developers are not working with each other. Projects are usually limited to the campus or market they are developed in.
“There are things here that are here, but are not widely spread out,” Brown said. “Smaller pieces — that’s where we need to go.”
Brown said the Co-Lab has tried to build connections with 700 campuses and districts to develop learning technology. They have also been working with universities and foreign researchers to bring in their developments, such as new mobile technologies that are being developed in Japan.
“Seeing how the world is so far ahead of us and the way we’re structured … it’s very frustrating,” Brown said. “We should look and see what we can do … make sure it’s connected to learning and that it’s available.”
Senn Brown, secretary of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, said his organization has tried to develop similar programs, such as the Appleton eSchool. He said WCSA would like to work with the Co-Lab to develop new techniques for their schools, working developments of mobile learning into the curriculum.
“Policy makers are [beginning to] understand how technology is going to change things over the next decade,” Senn said. “It’s new, but kids are out and about, not confined to a building.”