by Therese Dekleva
Biology / Chemistry
Delaware Technical Community College
I have been a teacher most of my life, in various forms, and have observed the changes in teaching methods and techniques over the years. Sometimes I am all for the new methods, sometimes I’m not so sure. With the new expansion of technology and the ability of fast, readily available, hand-held devices, such as the smart phone and the tablet, I started on the “not so sure” side. And, I am still somewhat reticent to completely turn over all teaching methods to embrace this new technology. But some things about these new devices are definitely worth incorporating into my teaching toolbox.
My eldest son often says that “in a post-Google world, there is no reason for ignorance” and he’s right—you can access data about anything at a moment’s notice. But does that make us smarter? First, to get what you want from Google, you have to know the right questions to ask. After that, you still have to be able to use that information well, which means that critical thinking and source evaluation skills are perhaps more necessary than ever. It’s also worth considering that rather than speeding up our problem-solving, Google might just be slowing us down. If I have to look everything up, then, even with the fastest computers, I will probably take longer to solve a problem than if I did a little bit of that old-fashioned “rote learning”. So a good compromise is to include both—sometimes you need to memorize it, sometimes you can look it up!
The tablet trend
As Google continues to transform the way we receive and filter information, one of the latest “fads” trending in the classroom is the introduction of tablets, such as the iPad. There are definitely advantages to this system: a good iBook—with its interactive exercises and touch controls—can be much more engaging than a plain old printed text book. It seems that we are at the beginning of this trend. More and more interactive text books are being developed on a daily basis. However, I am unaware of any studies that are looking into whether this new technology is actually increasing student learning and achievement.
From the teacher’s point of view, I have found a number of uses for the iPad in the classroom, mainly in the production of good quality demonstration videos. While there are many videos on Youtube or Teachertube that can be used in the classroom to enhance learning, some of them are of poor video quality, some of them are full of scientific errors, and some of them just don’t fully address the topic you want to cover. So, using the iPad and iMovie, I have made video demonstrations that actually do cover just what I want to show. With the high quality video on the iPad, these short video demonstrations look great. They are also extremely simple to produce, and I have made them both in my kitchen at home and in the lab here at Delaware Tech. With iMovie, the editing is simple. Making a five minute video, from start to finish, takes less than an hour.
Some things never change
It is interesting to note, however, that while new teaching methods continue to be introduced, some things do not change. When I first entered teaching, all those years ago, the “push” was on the student-centered classroom—getting students to think critically, engage in the classroom, and become problem-solvers. While different technologies give us different ways to introduce information to students, the principle remains the same: the best learning happens when the students are engaged.