Networked learning

The integration of technology into our educational environments has literally taken place over the course of many of our lifetimes in the most dramatic of ways. When I started school, everything was done on chalkboards and paper. While we had computer lab to learn to type, not every student had a computer in their home until much later in our schooling years and using online environments for homework didn’t really begin until I had reached late high school. I personally found the change challenging. So much so that, in a senior high school class when we had to do a presentation on our favorite form of technology, I chose pencil and paper.

However, I can no longer deny the benefits. Technology has literally transformed learning environments around the world. People can take a class offered in one location while being in another. Students taking language classes can literally talk to people that speak that language natively (https://talkabroad.com/). And, people learning about the Holocaust, can take a virtual tour through Auschwitz (http://remember.org/auschwitz/)

But all of these technologies have been added and changed so quickly. Just this week, one of my professors was asking the best way to answer multiple choice questions in class, lamenting that iclickers seem to be out of date. I was sitting there thinking that they were this new addition to the classroom environment when I was in undergrad just 5 years ago. I then realized that smartphones weren’t commonplace at that time; I hadn’t gotten one until 4 years ago. I quickly googled similar smartphone apps to the iclicker and found a ton!

However, I am pressed with this nagging question every so often. I have a lab mate that is about double my age who started earning his PhD the same year as me. Now if I found the transition to all this technology in the classroom and needing to code all of my data analysis challenging, what is it like for students his age? While I didn’t start my life with this technology, I moved through school with it and had the opportunity to learn. Is all this technology a barrier to older students or even students that come from less developed countries that don’t have these technologies at their fingertips? The addition of this technology in schools, universities, and the workplace is inevitable, but it has happened so fast that it’s making it difficult for those people that didn’t grow up with it to compete. While I have been introduced to a ton of new technology throughout my schooling, it makes me wonder if things will continue to change after I enter the workforce, threatening my career 30 years from now. It certainly feels that we will continue to move in that direction.