Updating Our Classrooms
by Jamie Peraza
“It’s shocking to think of how much the world has changed since the horse-and-buggy days of Sleepy Hollow and how little has changed within the traditional classroom in America.” – Cathy Davidson
In Now You See It by Cathy Davidson she argues that our attention is strongly guided by experience and culture. She also argues that the Internet and digital age has increased the number of places where we can focus our attention. Davidson discusses this idea of attention blindness which is “the basic feature of the human brain that, when we concentrate intensely on one task, it causes us to miss just about everything else” (1). She suggests that a more collaborative way of learning may help us see or catch the very things our attention blindness causes us to miss. Essentially, Davidson believes that we must define new metrics, ones that are better aligned with the skills needed to succeed in the shifting global marketplace.
Davidson challenges more traditional ways of learning claiming they are outdated and could be improved through a new and different way of approaching education. She criticizes the American education system and “No Child Left Behind” because of its “standard based” educational policy. Davidson believes that standardized tests and standardized thinking is no longer the best way to educate our youth in the twenty-first century. Instead Davidson feels that our classrooms need to be updated with the proper tools and devices to better help our students prepare for the world around them. For some unknown reason, despite everything else in our lives being updated and improved with time, the way in which we approach education has not changed in decades.
Incorporating new technologies in academic and educational environments may be one of the ways in which we can begin to improve the quality of our education. My younger sister Camila is currently a freshman year student at Drew High School where I graduated from almost 4 years ago. Despite attending the same high school, her educational experience is going to be very different from mine. As of last year this high school decided to buy all of their students iPads to use as a primary tool for education. The school no longer buys hardcopy textbooks for the students because all of their books can now be found as an e-book on their iPad. Students seem to find this very helpful because they don’t have to worry about bringing books home and then back to school and, they don’t have to carry 5 heavy books around all day.
According to my sister, all of her teachers and classmates use the iPads every day, and in every classroom. In an English class her teacher recently taught the class how to make comic vignettes on an application called Strip Design straight from their iPads. Students were able to directly draw on the iPad to make the comic and then share their drawings with the class. They are constantly learning to express themselves through new mediums and applications.
Camila finds that using her iPad keeps her a lot more organized. She likes that her classwork, homework, and notes are easily accessible and can all be found on one device. She uses Quick Office to take class notes and finds that applications such as Flashcardlet, which her teachers encouraged her to use, are really helpful when it comes time to study. FlashcardIet is an application in which the student can make his or her own flashcards and can then interact with the program so that it tests them using those digital flashcards. Camila says that it’s really convenient to have everything she needs on her iPad because she can easily copy and paste things from her notes to create the flashcards, and you don’t have to worry about losing an index card here or there. Camila also enjoys using Keynotes to make slideshows and just experimenting with different applications in the classroom. Aside from her mathematics homework almost all her homework is submitted in her dropbox/ cloud storage, or on turnitin.com. She says she has really cut down on using paper ever since they started using the iPad.
One of the most useful applications that teachers at Drew High School use is called NearPod. This application essentially syncs all the iPads in the classroom together so that if the teacher would like, she could have whatever is displayed on her iPad also show up on all the student’s iPads. Each classroom also has a projector and with this application the teacher can project a student’s iPad screen on the whiteboard for the rest of the class to see his/her work. This is one of the more interactive and engaging tools they use to improve the classroom setting.
When Davidson suggested we “update” our classroom setting I’m not sure she meant that we need to buy all our students iPads. However, given the positive feedback of the incorporation of iPads in the classroom, I can see how this is definitely a step towards improving the way in which we learn. Applications such as NearPod can be used to facilitate a more collaborative working environment for students. And as Davidson points out, working collaboratively can help us in learning how to see the whole picture rather than falling victims of our own attention blindness. Using different applications and mediums to express themselves is also something Davidson would be proud of. This is something Davidson would find particularly important because learning to use these different platforms is preparing and teaching students the skills necessary to succeed in this digital world, even outside of the classroom. Davidson fears that our outdated education system is not preparing our youth to thrive or reach their full potential in the real world. This incorporation of new devices and tools in the classroom is perhaps a step away from standardized learning, and a step towards a more creative way of teaching.
Menlo Middle School students read, write and publish their own ebooks in French class
“Giant iPad Apple Regent St” by Aniya Adly, Creative Commons 2.0 Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/aniyaadly/5549428097/
“No Child Left Behind Identifies Good Schools as Failures” by Jamie Brauer, Creative Commons 2.0 Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/k12cornerstones/6230985462/
“PZ20120419-105.jpg” by Pete Zivkov, Creative Commons 2.0 Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/menlophoto/6949054882/in/photostream/