Change is in the air. Actually, it’s in the classroom. Education in America has been hit with a wave of technology from iPads to iMacs to electronic whiteboards. It’s exciting; the growth of technology and its application to the classroom allows more opportunity for learning. Teachers can teach more efficiently; no more fussy overheads or booting up the computer for 10 minutes. And with tools like Diigo, teachers can present and share a series of sites to their students instantly.
The possibilities for the use of the iPad for students are endless, and they are undoubtedly sparking creativity. Young elementary school students are using the iPad to make their own digital storybooks, featuring text, photos, and links to other sites and content. High school students are using them for anatomy demonstrations, turning in assignments, recording lectures, creating group presentations, and even for assisting in lab experiments.
With the boom in technology we are also seeing a rise in online education. Top universities are now offering classes online for free for students around the world. All students have to do is locate Internet connection, login, and they have access to assignments, video lectures, tests, and other course material. This is a cheap, efficient way to gain an education; giving even disadvantaged students the opportunity to gain an education (can you see why Bill Gates is working towards increasing Internet access? Brilliant).
Online education certainly has its perks, but when combined with the fact that college tuition is becoming more and more expensive every year, I fear we are headed in a bad direction. Lets face it, online education is cheaper and people may soon come to realize that they can earn their degree without traveling miles away, paying over-priced housing, books, and tuition and putting themselves in student loan debt. People may start to question, is the “college experience” even worth it? It’s society’s future, potential answer to this question that concerns me.
I do believe colleges can and should become more efficient institutions, but is there a way this can be accomplished without robbing students of the crucial ingredients they need to thrive? I’m talking about the physical, hands-on experience of learning, serendipitous discovery, the benefits of interacting with other students, putting our minds together, sharing, and growing together into well-educated individuals. These are all things one can gain from attending class, things no technology can ever fully replace.
This past quarter my lab group in Animal Behavior went out into the field to run our own experiment on crows and their mobbing behavior. We created a mock dead crow (a black sock filled with dirt, complete with fake feathers), laid it out on our established site, and observed crow behavior. This experiment was so fun because we designed it on our own and obtained some interesting results! Crows actually mobbed our fake crow and one feisty one had the nerve to attack it, physically plucking its feathers out! It was experiences like these that made me think, ‘I love college; I love learning.’
Now if higher education transitions to the Internet and college campuses disappear…who will run the crow experiments?