The Present and Future Role of Technology in the Classroom

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For many people to walk into a classroom today they may not recognize it as it was when they were in school. The classroom has changed as technology has changed. It is not uncommon to see second grade students using the Internet to communicate with students across the country, or to see high school students using PowerPoint to present a research project. Technology has changed the way the classroom looks, how’s it run and what is taught. Technology plays a large role in present classrooms and it will play a larger role in the future. The current role of technology in our nation’s classrooms usually depends on the teacher. Every school district seems to be allocating resources to “get wired” and improve their existing technology. The Internet, CD-ROM’s, PowerPoint, VCR’s and video recording devices are all common in most schools. Some of the wealthier districts even have individual classrooms wired for Internet access. However, just because the technology is in the buildings doesn’t mean that it is widely used. Many teachers are not trained to use the technology that is available to them. Predictions about how long it will take to train the two million teachers in America often implicitly embrace a top-down model: we must first develop curriculum, get courses approved, hire trainers, etc. If that were so, it would take decades to make discernible progress (Serim & Koch, 1996). The reality is that teachers have to train themselves and many are not willing to do that, don’t have the time, or simply can’t. That may sound depressing, but reality is that many teachers are willing and able. Furthermore, the teachers entering the workplace over the past years all have had technological training. The technology of the Internet is probably the most widely used by educators today. The Internet is the world’s largest computer network, connecting more than 4 million computers in over 160 countries. More than thirty million people, increasing at a rate of one million per month, are estimated to have access to the Internet (Distefano & McClain, 1996). The Internet allows students access to millions of documents, professional and university libraries, as well as the opportunity to take virtual tours of almost any location on the earth. Most teachers understand the opportunity that the Internet allows them and they want to utilize it. These teachers who use the Internet see themselves as the learned, guiding hand in the student’s process of discovering knowledge. They are getting away from the teacher as the dispenser of knowledge. The Internet additionally allows teachers the opportunity to connect their students to students around the world. Those teachers who are utilizing the opportunities that the Internet offers are participating in amazing projects. Science classes from Bellevue, Washington and Bridgewater, Virginia have joined forces with NASA as part of a program called, Sharing NASA with our Schools. This program allows the students to view NASA scientists at work and interact with these scientists online. The students can use the scientists as resources for their own school lab projects. Another project is going on in Juneau, Alaska. As part of Alaska Online, students from Dzantik Heeni Middle School are responsible for sharing information about Alaska’s geography and its people with anyone interested online (Serim & Koch, 1996). Essentially these middle school students are responsible for teaching the world about Alaska! Whether it’s using professionals as resources, or taking on the responsibility of teaching the world, these classrooms are a great example of how the technology of the Internet is being used today. If students are exposed to such wonderful projects today, in what direction will technology take education in the future? The most important aspect to understand is that in the big picture very few students are exposed to this type of learning with technology. There are still many schools who are not wired for...
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