Tech Talk: Engaged Learners

What's new in the education technology marketplace?

In the “old days,” teachers could teach with simple chalk and talk because students thought teachers knew everything. Then along came the information age, and students turned to digital. Most people understand that students today learn differently and may feel disconnected from teaching and learning styles that were designed for their parents.

Students now use many means to stay in touch with their peers and to acquire information: cell phones, iPods, e-mail, text messaging, the Internet, blogs and instant messaging. These students are multi-taskers. They see no problem with simultaneously watching TV, browsing the Internet, listening to music and texting their friends.

Today's classrooms are being designed with multiple electronic display devices, including ceiling-mounted video projectors and large screens, interactive whiteboards, LCD flatscreens and document cameras. The key in all of this is that students are engaged.

Another device making its way into the classroom is a student response system. These systems typically employ handheld devices that each student uses to respond to questions from an instructor. A teacher is able to receive immediate and individual feedback from students about how well they are comprehending the curriculum.

Student response systems can encourage class participation in K-12 and higher education. Teachers can use this technology to evaluate the collective understanding of an entire class and track individual student learning at the point of instruction. Interactive questions can help in reviewing assigned materials, confirming attendance, awarding participation points and grading tests. A teacher can generate reports for virtually all course needs, from individual student participation scores to entire section results, or evaluate results based on demographics or work groups.

Another cool trend taking place in technology for education is the improvement in display monitors — not only improved LCDs, but also the new LED (light-emitting diodes) technology displays that will be coming soon. LEDs working in conjunction with DLP (digital light processing) for rear-projection TVs eliminate the need for bulbs and color wheels to produce the images on screen. Red, green and blue LEDs fire sequentially to produce the color and provide the illumination needed for lighting the display.

The only real negatives are ones that can be overcome with future improvements in LED technology. The brightness in first-generation LEDs didn't suit larger displays (60 inches or more), and the price of LED televisions is higher than similarly sized LCD models. But, manufacturers are scheduled this year to release a 61-inch LED TV, and the price gap between LEDs and LCD has narrowed in recent months.

Technology is transforming the way students learn. School administrators must be willing to provide the resources necessary for teachers and students to achieve.

C. William Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in education facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

TAGS: Construction
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