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The Coming of Age of Technology in Education

It’s 2019 and for the first time in my 23-year career as an educational IT leader, I can finally say that technology — for the classroom — has come of age. What technology delivers has gone beyond automating human actions, it is now changing modes of education — the pedagogy — and has reached a  “sweet spot” of value in terms of return on investment. Let me explain.

Forging our IT future

In 1995, I had two consulting clients, Bialik Hebrew Day School and Havergal College, and there was only one good option for their educational technology — Apple. Back then, Macintosh desktop computers were over $3,000 each. With software costs, cabling, servers, etc., one computer lab could easily run over $100,000.

As the internet exploded and computers became more widely accessible, the technology needs at schools only seemed to get more complicated and expensive. For instance, schools were buying expensive servers and SANs (basically large, fast hard drives), often spending over $100,000 for storage alone. Cabling needed to be updated, network switches upgraded, internet connections were exorbitantly priced and frustratingly slow, and laptops were heavy and sluggish with poor battery life. It didn’t seem to make sense. So much money spent, and for what?

Looking back, we now understand that those years were spent using technology to simply automate the more basic “administrative” tasks of education. For instance, using a word processor instead of hand-written assignments, PowerPoint to support what had been only a verbal presentation, or reading on computer instead of reading a hard copy book.

Technology Changing the Classroom

In recent years, technology infrastructure has changed business, and inevitably, education.  In my opinion, it’s been Google that has had the biggest positive impact on education (see below). There are so many examples to share:

  • Students are collaborating online using tools like Jamboard and Google Docs, allowing them to reach out to each other to solve problems and share knowledge. This leads to a deeper learning and understanding.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become accessible to the classroom using Google Tour Creator and Google Expeditions, allowing students to explore new dimensions of the material they’re studying. Plus they’re a fun way to learn.
  • And, it’s now a regular experience for Bialik students to use Google Hangouts to video-conference with their peers in Israel. Geography and borders are no longer in the way to building relationships and collaborative learning.  This technology is helping students break down barriers and share experiences.

This is the key to my view that technology has finally come of age in education. It’s not necessarily that budgets have decreased. It’s that they now are delivering real change to the classroom teaching. No one is tempted to ask “what’s the money for?” any longer. So many new dimensions of learning are available now to teachers and students, the potential of technology is now truly being realized.

We’ve come a long way since those early days trying to use technology effectively in schools. Technology is moving so fast now that it’s difficult to predict where things might take us, but the possibilities are endless. And, the beneficiaries are the students who have the tools to become true 21st century learners!

Do you think technology has come of age? What online tools are you seeing your kids using at Bialik (and at home) that are getting you excited? Tell us on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

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An Afterword Dedicated to Google’s G Suite for Education

Google’s online G Suite for Education has been a huge game changer for IT in education. Here are some insights into why:

  • Google provides the G Suite for Education service for free, with unlimited cloud storage and unrivalled collaborative tools, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Classroom, Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Draw, Jamboard, Hangouts, Forms and more.
  • Google’s amazing platform has also allowed for a transformative evolution in the laptop, with the Google Chromebook, which is inexpensive, fast, ruggedized for student use, and has great battery life. The latest Chromebooks can also flip into tablet mode, have touch-enabled screens, an integrated stylus, and access to Android apps.

This last point is worth noting. Often unseen to the users — and which makes my team’s job easier —  is that Chromebooks are also easily managed from a central admin console, which allows us to ensure their safe and secure use at school and at home.  

This means we can deliver great support at a lower cost, which allows the IT department to focus on higher-value services, such as infusing technology into the teaching and learning in the classroom.

 

Matthew Connors
Director of IT