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The Role of Technology in Education

by , 23rd Jan 2015

Creating a curriculum that appreciates the power of technology in education can serve to increase engagement in the classroom and make learning easier and more efficient.

Methods used within the classroom not only need to keep evolving, but also harness the effects of the digital revolution in a positive and constructive manner. Creating a curriculum that appreciates the power of technology in the learning process can serve to increase engagement in the classroom and make learning easier and more efficient.

A common misperception surrounding the impact of technology on learning is that the Internet, with all its factual data, has served to render our long-term memory as useless. Why commit to learning something if a simple press of a button will give you the answers you are looking for? Proponents of this argument therefore believe that the need to remember facts is no longer essential to our education. However, these arguments often ignore the dynamic between long-term memory and working memory. A person’s long-term memory has much more capacity than their working memory that can only remember between 4-7 items before it becomes overloaded. Therefore, working memory space is premium, in order for it to be free on a regular basis we have to commit certain facts to our long-term memory. This is perhaps why researchers label long-term memory as ‘the seat of human intellectual skill.’

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Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are facing sharp criticism for their ability to distract the student in the classroom and lecture theatre. This is not surprising, with studies showing that university students who frequently engage with laptops during lectures understand less than those who do not. However, the addictive nature of technology, such as video games, can be harnessed in positive ways. An innovation in education is underway. Is it possible to design educational video games and software tools that hold children’s attention in the same way that computer games do? An example of such efforts comes in the form of the Essa Academy in Bolton, the United Kingdom.

The story of the Essa Academy encapsulates the transformative impact of technology on the learning process. In 2009, the school was ‘failing’ according to OFSTED inspectors, but now the school has drastically improved pupils’ results and satisfaction. The school gave every pupil a new iPod with software configured to teachers’ computers. Additional iPads are found in every classroom, and pupils in Biology class use these to create stop-start movies reflecting the dynamic aspect of Nature. Much criticism was leveled at the plan to give a ‘failing’ school, where 80% of pupils come from ‘deprived areas’, so much funding. The local media implied that, due to the economic status of the pupils, most of the new iPods would be sold on eBay, but this has not happened. Students seem to treasure them, with only 1-2% of the gadgets reported lost, stolen, or damaged.

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There’s something like a sense of belonging in having your own device. You have access to everything at the touch of your hand, literally – Aadil Pariejwala.

The mastermind behind the plan, which has now been mirrored by the neighbouring private school, is director Abdul Chohan. Chohan took a risk that seems to be paying off, he was actually told he would be fired if the plan did not work! Before the scheme, only 25% of Essa’s students attained 5 good GCSEs, but now that number has more than doubled, reaching higher than the national average.

Further innovative steps to complement the plan can be seen throughout the School campus with no designated ‘staff room’ (pupils can enter when they like to ask for advice), and an internal Email system. These examples foster a sense of cooperation between teachers and pupils, relieving the School of the ‘them versus us’ attitude that can come to undermine the learning process. By incorporating a collegiate atmosphere, a tailor-made curriculum, and engaging technology, pupils are adequately prepared for any future job.

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We’re based on the premise that the future is not what it used to be; that the one thing we know is that the world our students are going to live in is something unknown – Andy Peet, Essa Deputy Principal.

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