The World is Flat, Education is Not: 5 Ways to Use Technology in the Class

Hello again.  I recently finished reading the book “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman (I know, I’m late to the show) which is a brief history of the 21st Century.  In the book, Friedman talks about the evolution of technology and business, and how these forces, especially the Internet, new  business practices, etc. have caused the “flattening” of the world.  He argues that more people than ever in our world are on a level playing field due to new technologies which have forced new business practices and increased.

In reading this book, it got me thinking about how “flat” the education world is.  As I started thinking about this, it sure seemed to me that there are too many inequities in education, especially as it applies to technological resources in the classroom.  In my time student teaching, there were some difficulties with getting technology in the classroom due to lack of resources, and I was forced to use a lot of my own resources or the teacher’s own personal resources as a result of having none in the classroom.  Having said that, most schools I’m sure have a library with computers, so there is still a way to expose students to technology, which I think is so important.  Consequently, below are my five ways to efficiently and easily expose students to technology…

1) Email with them.  Most students will have an email already, and if they don’t, then help them set up and account.  They will need it later in life and this will only benefit them.  Allow them to correspond with you on assignments.  If they have questions, let them email you, or if they may be turning in a late assignment, allow them to email it to you.  The whole world functions on email and it is vital that our students are exposed to this technology.

When having a conversation with your students about email, emphasize some of the basics of email etiquette.  Encourage them to have appropriate email addresses (centered around their name) and show them how to properly construct an email.  Really, it should be not a whole lot different than writing a letter, but it is surprising how many people forget this.  Response time is also important to talk about.  Responding to someone’s email four days to a week after receipt is not a good thing.

2) Blog with your students.  It may be a great idea to start a “class” blog that you can share new ideas with students and news related to the class.  This is a great way to get students to do a little more investigative work into the class without having them do this in class.  Then the question begs itself, how does one get students to actively participate in the blog?  My suggestion is to have mandatory postings or comments a week.  If students just post one comment a week, that will be fine, but it is still acclimating them to this wonderful Web 2.0 feature that will probably have some sort of place for them later in life.  On top of that, it is just another great way to practice writing!

3) Social networking is another one of today’s most pervasive online features.  1 in 12 people on Planet Earth is on Facebook.  1.  In.  12.  That is astounding and the power of not just Facebook, but other social networks is evident.  Much of the world communicates through these social networks now, and for many people, it has become somewhat of a replacement for their email!

How can this be integrated in the class?  Create a “group” or a “fan page” for your class.  This would have similar functionality to creating a blog for one’s class, so it would be up to teacher preference which application to choose.  Students can make comments on the page, ask questions related to class assignments and projects, and yet again exposes them to more technology.

4) Google Docs is a free and great way to share documents and information with one’s class.  Many people use Gmail for the email accounts, and there are even some schools using Gmail as their platform for email correspondence instead of Microsoft Office.  Setting up an account is easy and FREE, and can be a great paperless way for students to do their homework and submit it to the teacher.  If resources are short at your school (i.e. no paper, or paper limits), then Google Docs is a great alternative.

5) Podcasts are another fantastic and free way to get information.  There is a plethora of podcasts available and they cover a wide range of topics and genres.  For myself as a Social Studies teacher, I would like to start incorporating some news podcasts into the classroom as just another way to expose my students to current events.  Students could then simply write a reaction to the podcast, or some brief takeaways they had from listening.  One could even then have the students write down at least one question that came to their mind from listening to the podcast and then have them research the question.  This is another great way to present the class with information and expose them to technology.

About Pat

Pat Riley is student teaching at Amundsen High School in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood for the fall of 2010. He will be teaching Contemporary American History, starting just before the Civil War, as he works towards his Type 9 certificate with an endorsement in History and hopefully Business. Previously, he worked in public relations and business development for a law firm in Chicago, but decided his passion was education. Prior to working in public relations and business development, Mr. Riley received a B.S. in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Marketing from Indiana University. Follow his blog at Musings on Apples and Education.
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