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The 21st century classroom

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  • 1. The 21st Century Classroom: Books and Technology Co-Existing<br /> Sarah Lewis<br /> University of West Georgia<br /> Dr. Judy Butler<br /> ENGL 4231.01 (Tuesday)<br /> Abstract<br />Many educators are torn about how to incorporate new technology they are given by their <br />school, with the traditional elements (books, paper, and files etc.) already in the classroom. This <br />paper looks at the pro’s and con’s of new technology like computers, SMART Boards™, and <br />virtual fieldtrips in contrast to what have become the staples of the teacher. In addition, schools <br />that have been based completely on technology and the eradication of all books, believe they <br />have proof that they are better preparing their students for future jobs. The problem with this <br />notion, is that it is expensive. Many schools are still using books that are twenty or more years <br />old and they may only have a handful of computers for their entire school. The reality is that <br />teachers need to learn to intertwine new technology with old ways so that they effectively co-<br />exist. This is the most efficient way to take on teaching for the 21st century.<br />Key words: 21st century classrooms, teaching, books, educators, computer, technology.<br /> The 21st Century Classroom: Tradition & Technology Co-Existing<br /> Many American educators have wondered if books will become obsolete in the classroom. <br />With the rise of the Amazon Reader®, and the Kindle®, many think it is just a matter of time <br />before all tangible material, like paper, will no longer be needed. In addition to technology <br />replacing books, high tech material has completely changed the way many classrooms function <br />compared to twenty years ago. Where teachers used to read from novels, students are now <br />making podcasts of certain scenes from the same novel and sharing them with the class. <br />Worldwide interaction with students from all different countries has become a useful tool in <br />shaping the secondary Social Studies classroom and facilitating a first-hand experience with <br />different cultures. Instead of just reading about the world, students are now participating in it, <br />thanks in part to technology. However, as technology becomes an integral part of our schools, <br />educators must find a way to help it co-exist with traditional materials. Many schools are <br />becoming extremely proactive about preparing their children for the high tech advances that will <br />exist in the job market by, “reducing the need for textbooks, notepads, paper, and—in some <br />cases— even the schools themselves.” CITATION Tec08 l 1033 (Technology Reshapes America's Classroom, 2008) They <br />want their classrooms to reflect what students will experience in the real world, and in the real <br />world changes are being made. <br /> Before we can delve into how the classrooms are changing, we must first understand how <br />they used to be. What resources did teachers use to effectively run classrooms? What was the <br />philosophy regarding the student’s connection with the outside world and how it developed? <br />Many feel that the education system has failed to connect the youth to the jobs they will <br />encounter in their own life in the ever changing job market. According to the Graduate Program <br />at High Tech High, “For over 75 years the American high school has followed three critical <br />operating instructions that are so ingrained in the culture by now as to seem natural: segregated <br />students by class, race, gender, language ability, pr perceived academic ability; separate <br />academic from technical teaching and learning and isolating adolescents from the adult world <br />that they are about to enter.” (High Tech High, 2010) Because of these ingrained structures in <br />the education system, many students entering into high tech fields at the end of the 20th century <br />found it difficult to connect what they had learned and their educational experience with what <br />their job was requiring. If they attended a school that was unable to provide new technological <br />advances like computers and the internet, they found themselves less prepared for college or the <br />job force. Government officials like President Clinton attempted to initiate a movement towards <br />technology in 1996 by mandating that, “‘Every classroom in America should be hooked up to the <br />Internet by 2000.’” CITATION Bus06 l 1033 (Bushman, 2006) However, not every school system could afford the cost of <br />instituting such a feat that required expensive computers, internet connections and monthly <br />connection costs; all in addition to the costs of training teachers and staff how to use them. <br />Therefore, many of the schools incorporated a few computers (using them as word processors) <br />and continued to run the classroom as usual. <br /> Now ten years into the 21st century, educators and government officials are <br />realizing that the status quo can no longer continue. In order to create a workforce that is <br />internationally competitive, our students need to be knowledgeable and skilled in all of the <br />technologies that the new millennium has to offer. Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia said, “’ I <br />want recommendations on what is the best possible formula for investing in education <br />excellence. I believe the hallmarks would be a formula that is transparent, simple and ensures all <br />children have access to an excellent education.’” (Raudonis, 25 Years after QBE: How Strong is <br />Public Support for Public Education?, 2010) Unfortunately, the answer to this formula is not <br />simple because it requires the constant attention and funding for high tech gear like: “computers, <br />networking (probes/sensory), iPods, interactive white boards, audio, video, multimedia, online <br />learning and resources like hardware and software.” (Raudonis, Are Georgia Schools Making the <br />Most of Technology?, 2010) Although all of this can seem overwhelming, the best way to <br />incorporate 21st century technology is to allow whatever is available to co-exist with some <br />traditional classroom environments. For example, if a school system has access to a computer <br />with internet access (but doesn’t have Promethean Boards), students can utilize a free service <br />called Moodle to write research papers, collaborate on creative writing projects, and explore <br />virtual fieldtrips, all in the context of a novel they are reading in the class. The actual paperback <br />book is still a primary source of learning and the technology supplements and allows students to <br />interact with it. Almost every school in America has this technology available in 2010, and the <br />internet is a viable source for teaching students to explore their world and prepare for their <br />future. <br /> In the world outside of the classroom, the Internet has become a phenomenon that has <br />brought “Newspaper circulation down seven million [readers] . . . [and brought in] unique <br />readers of online newspapers up thirty million.” It has brought “Americans access to <br />1,000,000,000,000 web pages.” CITATION McL09 l 1033 (McLeod, 2009) People are no longer reading paper <br />(magazines, newspapers, books and journals). They are turning to their laptops throughout the <br />day to access information they need. This is not only a reality in the personal lives of <br />individuals, but also in the corporate world as CEOs who used to send out paper memo’s, and <br />now instead, send mass e-mails. Students will need to learn to adapt to this new way of life and <br />prepare for it to constantly change if they want to become competitive in the world market. As <br />teachers, we are leading the way and are ultimately responsible for “currently preparing students <br />for jobs that don’t yet exist” and “transitioning to a new world where people and technology <br />come together.” CITATION Did09 l 1033 (Did You Know? Human Capital Edition, 2009) Students need to use <br />computers, not just as an advanced word processor, but as a tool to help them think in a new <br />way. <br /> Since information is now at the fingertips of those who engage it, students need to learn the <br />fastest and most efficient ways to find information, practice how to communicate effectively <br />using the internet and e-mail and compile a list of the most useful sites for themselves. Teachers <br />need to do the same. Although the cost of training teachers to use new technology is said to be <br />often beyond the budget for many schools, teachers need to take the initiative and use online <br />resources to aid them in being better prepared. All teachers should have a compiled list of online <br />sources that could be used in the classroom or aid in their development of lessons. The internet <br />should be the number one resource for lesson planning in your classroom, second to the primary <br />text. Some sites that teachers may find useful are: www.truly-free.org/ which provides free <br />literature for download; the site includes full texts for The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath, Lord of <br />the Flies, and much more. Books could be downloaded and printed off, or attached to the school <br />site for students to read when needed. Pete’s Power Point Station or www.pppst.com/ has <br />thousands of power points for classroom use (grades K-12), as well as interactive games that <br />students can play in groups, or as an entire class (if the room has projector abilities). Teachers <br />can also compile a list of important resources into a blog that they can share with other teachers. <br />I have created one that I use in my student teaching called www.becomingteacher.blog.com. It <br />compiles all of my lesson plans, power points, and important websites into a user friendly <br />resource that I can return to and add to over and over again. In order to teach children to use <br />technology, we must integrate it into our own lives first; it really must become like second <br />nature so they see us being comfortable with it.<br /> One of the new technologies that is virtually revolutionizing the learning atmosphere, is <br />Skype or the interactive podcasting chat. Students can chat with other students and other <br />individuals with a wealth of knowledge, all around the world. “According to social studies <br />teacher and podcasting user, Jonathon Henderson of West Forsyth High School in Georgia, “’ In <br />the front of my classroom, my current issues class learned about Russian culture and language <br />from a high school in Russia, while in the back of the room, 15 students from West and a high <br />school in Greece were having individual one-on-one conversations.’” (Raudonis, Are Georgia <br />Schools Making the Most of Technology?, 2010) The best part of this resource, is that it can be <br />used to make the primary materials like textbooks come to life. Students will still need to be <br />familiar with the lesson material and read and review each chapter, as well as prepare pertinent <br />questions before they interact in the podcast. This can ensure that time is used wisely for each <br />party. In order to participate in this sort of technology, schools need to have internet access, <br />computer hardware, a computer cam, and access to Skype or another service (which is usually <br />free). Many of these materials are already in the classroom. Students can also view some of the <br />world’s most magnificent places by participating in a virtual fieldtrip from a site like <br />http://www.simplek12.com/virtualfieldtrips which can take classes anywhere from The Louvre <br />to The Grand Canyon live. In addition, the website http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com/2959452 can <br />show students live video cams from around the world including ones that watch live arctic polar <br />bears or African lions and zebras. This sort of technology only requires internet access and a <br />computer; a really low cost compared to the learning experience that students are gaining. <br /> The successful classroom needs to incorporate both traditional elements as well as <br />technological elements mostly because to make a shift completely to technology is too <br />expensive for the current state of the education system. Also, some researchers believe that <br />certain traditional elements really work in helping students learn. According to the <br />American Educational Advisory Board (AFAA) (the number one source for educational research <br />in America), “technology is everywhere and affects almost every aspect of our everyday lives, <br />including our education. And while this is true, the AFAA believes effective education is still <br />best delivered in a face-to-face environment.” CITATION Nys09 l 1033 (Nysewander, 2009) In other words, a truly <br />successful classroom needs some traditional elements like lecture, textbooks, and in-class <br />interaction in order for students to absorb what they have learned. Human interaction is not <br />something that technology can often provide; usually it is best used as an enhancer or a <br />complement to the lesson. Many believe that, “Teachers still play a vital role in [the] learning <br />process [ . . . and] still have lectures, group work and discussions,” in order to create a well-<br />rounded learning atmosphere. (Raudonis, Are Georgia Schools Making the Most of <br />Technology?, 2010) No matter how much technology is added to the classroom, teachers will <br />always be needed to assist and lead the student to higher levels of cognitive thinking. <br /> High Tech High, located in San Diego, California has revolutionized the education <br />business. Opening in 2000, the schools prides itself on using the highest quality resources, <br />technology and educational theories to create a modern, successful classroom that can be an <br />example across the country. So far, they have far surpassed all other schools in test scores and <br />readiness assessments. It was launched “by a coalition of San Diego business leaders and <br />educators [and uses] four design principals: personalization, adult world connection, common <br />intellectual mission, and teacher as designer.” CITATION Hig10 l 1033 (High Tech High, 2010) Many would hear the <br />words High Tech High and assume that the school has a strict technology-only philosophy, but <br />that simply isn’t true. HTH has recognized that some tried and true methods of the traditional <br />classroom need to co-exist with the technology. One of these elements, includes the “teacher as <br />designer,” or the one who is ultimately responsible for successfully integrating technology into <br />each unit. The teachers at HTH are complete masters of the technology they use, are willing to <br />constantly learn, and understand that the students they are teaching will need to know this <br />information in order to be successful adults. The school, “reverses the separations of <br />conventional schooling by integrating students, connecting school and community, and linking <br />technical, and academic studies. All students use technology to research, to produce, and to <br />present across disciplines.” CITATION Hig10 l 1033 (High Tech High, 2010) Just as they may be required to do in <br />whatever field of work they choose. Since the school was founded by successful businessmen of <br />the 21st century, it has a clear philosophy on how to best usher its students into the job field. <br />Although most classrooms across America do not have the financial ability to purchase what this <br />charter school has, in the way of technology, it can use HTH as an innovative example for how <br />to create new school philosophies about technology. <br /> In the past, schools in America have been hesitant about incorporating technology into <br />their everyday lessons. Some schools blamed this on underprivelaged econmonic situations, lack <br />of teacher education, and the dispute of appropriate educational philosphies on how to best serve <br />the students. As the 21st century has surfaced, many government officials and educators have <br />realized that the classroom needs to become a place to incorporate technology with learning. <br />Some schools like High Tech High have offered an example on how to fully access the latest <br />technological marvels, while others have claimed that traditional schools are still the best way to <br />educate students. In a recent national discussion concerned with doing away with libraries in <br />favor of research-hubs, one librarian said, “Libraries are icons of our cultural intellect, totems of <br />the totality of knowledge.” He went on further to add, “Try reading an e-book for more than a <br />half-hour. Headaches and eyestrain are the best results.” CITATION Her01 l 1033 (Herring, 2001) Ten years later, many <br />scholars would argue that the Internet has fast become the new “icon of our intellect” and “the <br />totem of the totality of knowledge.” How we use this new found technology will be very <br />important in determining the future of the chldren we teach. As educators, we need to find a <br />healthy balance between incorporate new ideas with what really works. We need to use <br />textbooks and allow technology to supplement the lesson. We cannot allow technology to do the <br />teaching for us, because it can never be a substitue for human interaction. We can’t deny that <br />high-tech information has had a major effect on our society and has shown “ample evidence that <br />technology [is] having a positive influence on student performace.” (Raudonis, Are Georgia <br />Schools Making the Most of Technology?, 2010) Now it is up to us as teachers to do our <br />research and find ways to balance the technology that we already have with the lessons that we <br />need to teach. <br /> <br /> <br /> ReferencesBushman, J. H. (2006). Using Young Adult Literature in the English Classroom. Columbus: Merrill Prentice Hall.Did You Know? Human Capital Edition. (2009). Retrieved March 14, 2010, from You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzCQz19bx18Herring, M. Y. (2001). 10 Reasons Why the Internet is no Substitute for a Library. American Libraries , 32.High Tech High. (2010, March). Retrieved March 14, 2010, from www.hightechhigh.orgKimmel, H. a. (1996). Instructional Technology: A Tool or a Panacea? Journal of Science and Technology , 87-92.McLeod, S. K. (2009). Did You Know? Retrieved March 14, 2010, from You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ILQrVrEW8Nysewander, D. (2009). A 21st Century Education: AFAA Continues to Provide Excellence in Education Using Technology. American Fitness , 27.Raudonis, L. (2010, January/ February). 25 Years after QBE: How Strong is Public Support for Public Education? PAGE ONE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) , p. 8.Raudonis, L. (2010, March/ April). Are Georgia Schools Making the Most of Technology? PAGE ONE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) , pp. 4-15.Technology Reshapes America's Classroom. (2008, July 7). Retrieved March 17, 2010, from e School News: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2008/07/07/technology-reshapes-americas-classrooms/<br />