You may have heard the term NUI or natural user interface tossed around. It refers to a computer interface that is devoid of peripherals such as a keyboard or mouse. Instead the human body is used to interact with the computer. If the idea seems abstract, think about the movie Minority Report…
Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect is probably the most well known device that currently offers the opportunity to use NUI. Its latest version recognizes a user’s body movements, facial gestures, voice inflection and even heart rate. From an educational perspective, this opens the door for many interesting implementations. This can allow for a possible multi-sensory educational experience unlike any we’ve seen before. Students can operate with the learning modality that best suits them. The potential positive outcome of increased confidence in educational endeavors could change the academic trajectory of many students; particularly those with learning disabilities or many on the autistic spectrum. There are obvious challenges to overcome such as cost, expertise and proper implementation, to name a few. But that doesn’t mar the endless possibilities that such engaging, intuitive technology presents.
As we look at what education should afford our children, a major consideration should be the ability to keep pace or gain an advantage in a given industry, ANY industry. We have come uopn a time where technology is so interwoven into every part of society that those who are not adroit in using it will surely fall behind their more adept peers. Simply put…no tech, no top! When we look at STEM education we should always make reference to an interdisciplinary approach that aims to cultivate a deeper understanding of each subject through an emphasis on the interrelated nature of science, technology, engineering, and math. It is essential that we focus on the collective nature of all the STEM subjects and the necessity of implementing an interdisciplinary approach rather than treating the individual subjects as disconnected islands. Promoting STEM understanding will lead to increased ability to use analytical approaches to all educational endeavors, as well as master the skill of problem solving while applying this practice across all subjects. What school/student couldn’t use that type of development? The reality is that in order to best position our students for success, we MUST embrace STEM education!
Is the constant use of technology shortening the attention span of students? Many teachers feel it is according to the results of two surveys who’s results have recently been published. The researchers themselves have noted that the findings do have an obvious amount of subjectivity but still accurately reflect the feelings of the teachers surveyed. The two surveys were conducted by Pew Internet Project and Common Sense Media. The results suggest that the overwhelmimg use of media, computers and mobile devices adversely affects a student’s ability to focus. The majority of teachers surveyed believe that the ability to quickly retrieve information and resolve queries makes it difficult for them to maintain a student’s attention during classroom instruction without performing some animated routine.
This appears to be a valid observation and concern for many teachers. The problem is that society’s adoption of technology in every arena precludes a student from not engaging it. Technology has deeply integrated itself into everything that we do in life. To expect a student or a parent or anyone else for that matter, to not have altered learning and behavioral techniques and habits as a result is an exercise in frustration and futility. Instead, we all must embrace the paradigm shift and leverage its advantages. When was the last time you, yes YOU…the person reading this, pulled out an encyclopedia to do research or the yellow pages to find the number to the Italian restaurant across town? We have all been conditioned to use the technology that is available to us to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently. It would be naive to expect any more, or less, of students. What we have to do in the classroom, just as every other industry has figured out, is use technology as a vehicle to be more effective engaging students and indulging their preferred learning style. I hope I got your attention.
Of course this isn’t true but there are some that have predicted this to be the case dating back two decades ago. Unfortunately, views such as these that have provided unnecessary obstacles to classroom technology integration by some of our best educators. It is obvious that 21st century learners need to leverage technological advancements to compete at a high level in the job market, in addition to competing with their international peers. Here’s a nice article to speaks about the tension. It highlights some of the misguided notions in Lewis Perelman‘s: School is Out: Hyperlearning, The New Technology, and the End of Education.
I particularly like how the article’s author details the 10 VERY REAL current issues with conventional education:
- Overcrowded classrooms.
- Obsolete printed textbooks.
- Irrelevant homework.
- Obsolete testing techniques.
- Classroom talking heads that repeat the material in the textbook, year after year.
- Irrelevant subjects for the 21st century.
- Pupils who cannot handwrite and cannot express themselves properly and confuse acetic with ascetic.
- The belief that it is only up to schools to educate young people.
- The belief that education ends when we leave school.
- Language skills at a standstill.