Can you imagine college before the Internet? A day when everything was tracked by paper documents; you could not sign up for classes online, and people actually used the card catalogs in the library. Tasks as simple as asking a professor a question were so much more difficult– a quick email could not be sent– office hours and perhaps a phone call to his home phone were the only method for contact. What is the library was the only way to find information? What would life be like without Google?
We live in the Information Age, and technology and unlimited access to information changes our educational experience in every way imaginable. For our generation, it is impossible to imagine conquering daily tasks in college without tools such as the Internet. However, technology is still rapidly changing, exponentially actually, and the resources in the classroom will continue to change drastically as well.
The future of education lies in the changing technology and the available mobility in education. Today there are options in Distance Learning and online classes. As mentioned in a previous blog, The Top 7 iPhone Apps for Students, students are able to learn on-the-go via their phone! Surveys show that over 90 percent of college students have a laptop. Soon, over 90 percent will have digital books. With recent advancements such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, the future of textbook publishing will change dramatically. Now, when searching for textbooks on Amazon.com, there is always the option to recommend that the book be added as an option for the Kindle. Many textbooks are already available on the Kindle, and within the next few years, predictions show that almost any textbook will be available.
Print journalism has changed drastically. Newspaper and magazines are gearing using new methods to draw in readers online. Videos and audio clips are paired with news stories. Until recently, the textbook industry remained untouched. Soon, textbooks will begin revamping their teaching methods as well. Imagine virtual textbooks that have videos, audio clips, and zooming capabilities that will allow science students to zoom in on individual cells. If you have a heavy backpack, your problems will be solved. The Amazon Kindle downloads any book under one minute, and holds up to 30,000 books. Thousands of pounds of books can be kept in a single the lightweight device.
Virtual books will change the traditional library as well. Fewer tangible books will be printed, and everything will be available on virtual books. We can’t imagine using card catalogs instead of the computer to find the book we are looking for in the library. Perhaps our children will not be able to believe that libraries formerly were shelves upon shelves of thousands of books. Perhaps libraries will be designed to be minimalistic with long glass study tables with virtual books, each containing an entire library, placed in front of each chair. Complete access to the entire library in the palm of your hand.
Technology is changing education in many ways outside of the virtual textbook. Chalkboards are out; today modern “smart classrooms” are often equipped with gadgets such as ceiling mounted projection units, large pull-down screens, sound systems, touchscreen control systems, AUX-video Input, document cameras, audience response clickers… the list is endless. Through power-points and many other technology infused teaching methods, students have many outlets for learning the necessary material. However, some traditional teaching methods, without technology, will never become outdated. Technology enables us to access and memorize any information needed; however, the classroom can provide so much more. Whether it is a place to listen to a lecture from a brilliant professor or a forum for heated discussion among peers, the challenge to think, debate, contradict, and inspire can be found in the most basic classrooms without any sign of technology.
Video conferencing is one form of technology that still enables discussion. With technology such as Skype or iChat, people are connected around the world like they have never been before. Even in elementary schools, instead of merely pen-paling with a student from across the world, these children are able to expand their understanding of the world through visually and virtually meeting other children from completely different backgrounds and from completely different parts of the world. This is a resource that can be tapped into by college students as well. They say that a language can only be learned if one is immersed in the country and culture, but skyping with a native speaker daily could improve your language skills, especially conversational and pronunciation skills, drastically.
Distance learning, mobile learning, and electronic learning will open doors for students inside and outside of the classroom. Twittering, blogging, facebook, and other social and informational forums are other ways to continue to track, stay in contact, and stay updated with any areas of interest. The portability of all of these technological forums will increase the mobility of education in ways that are incomprehensible now. I am looking forward to the upcoming advances that will be made and seeing how they will be implemented in the classroom.