Keyboard education

Times are always changing, and in the world of education, it’s no different. Growing up, kids are always being asked how their school day went.

Now, imagine the look on a parent’s face if their child responds to them with “Well, we used an iPad today to create PowerPoint.”

Modern technology is becoming such a normal part of learning in elementary schools and high schools across Ontario. It’s also why future generations will have a different schooling experience compared to previous generations.

People for Education, a charity that supports public schools in Ontario, rcently released a study that shows 99 per cent of schools in Ontario gave students access to a computer, with almost 80 per cent of students using a computer in kindergarten. According to that study, Peel District School Board is asking its students to bring tablets to classrooms, and is providing students with wireless connection and bandwidth improvements to ensure constant connection. The charity also found that more than 40 per cent of teachers use online videos from YouTube as learning strategies.

Clare Brett, an associate professor with the University of Toronto in the department of curriculum, teaching and learning says it’s important to understand that technology will not replace teachers.

“Nothing has changed in the education system, but here are these tools that are there, that you can use,” says Brett.  “An important factor for success moving forward with new tools, like an iPad, will be to invest money into educating the teachers to fully understand the technology they will be using with students in a classroom.”

Brett says it’s not simple. “To take a platform and integrate it into your teaching in a meaningful way. It usually takes teachers three to five years to fully understand the functionality of technology and to implement it meaningfully.”

While some parents may worry about distractions involving the use of technology, Diane Murgaski, superintendent of education, curriculum and assessment at the York Catholic District School Board, says the purpose behind the technology is not to distract the student with the gadget, but to get the student more involved in their learning.

“Technology helps to facilitate the learning using an engaging and familiar tool,” says Murgaski. “It’s never about the technology, it’s always about the learning.”

Brett says the key to better understanding technology and how to properly use it in classrooms comes down to research and studies. However, with technology accelerating at a quick rate in terms of usage, it’s difficult for the research to stay up to date.

“The development speed of technology far exceeds the speed of research,” says Brett. “Research, literally, cannot keep pace.”

According to a study conducted in 2015 by comScore Canada, an analytics firm, Canadians spend more than 35 hours on the internet, more than any other nation.

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The study also shows that Ontario accounts for almost 40 per cent of internet users in Canada, the highest of any other region in the country. For parents expressing concern for children  spending too much time online, Murgaski says they should feel more comfortable if their children are using technology in a school setting.

“Education works to teach students how to use technology safely, with awareness that digital citizenship means keeping yourself and others safe online,” says Murgaski, “treating people respectfully even when you are not face-to-face and recognizing that good health includes monitoring the amount of time spent in virtual environments.”

With many students already having experiences around gadgets like an iPad before the first day of school, course curriculums must also stay updated on what students are learning outside their school environment.

As modern technology is enrolled in class, it continues to provide flexibility for teachers, in terms of learning strategies.

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