Today's guest writer shares her perspective on “what it's like growing up with [or without] technology in education.”
My preschool-high school education comes from a unique perspective, since all but one year of my life was spent homeschooled. Being homeschooled meant that my classes were either taught by mom or on a computer. Two to three times a day, three days a week I’d log into the family computer and set up the classroom on my screen. I’d sit there for an hour or so, usually clicking away at some YouTube video and not paying attention to my distant teacher’s voice coming through the headphones. Every paper I wrote would be emailed or submitted online, all my research took place on the computer. I learned how to type at a remarkably young age and could navigate Word when I was 12 years old. This idea of education fused with technology seemed so natural to me, I didn’t think anything of it. I just ‘went to class’ and accepted it as normal.
By the time I moved on to high school, I was so adjusted to using technology for my learning that when I switched to the public-school system for my senior year, I was taken aback by the inefficiency of handing in physical pieces of paper to my teacher, who would often promptly lose them and forget to give a grade. My math binder was constantly a mess, with tabs upon tabs marking important notes and a stack of flashcards always packed safely away in a pocket of my backpack. I had to carry a physical textbook with me on my back to and from school, eventually deciding to ditch it for the sake of convenience. The experience of a literal classroom was one I’d never had before; never before in my life was I required to submit hand-written papers, and I thought it strange that a teacher would accept something that hadn’t been typed. While I didn’t think much of it at the time, I can look back now and the inefficiency of binders full of papers and appreciate the advancements that have been made in education, technology wise.
After graduating from high school, I enrolled in the local community college and was glad to find that there would be no more hand-written papers. My Pre-Calc textbook was not a textbook at all, but a link I could click on to access my quizzes. Instead of carrying around a traditional graphing calculator, my teacher had me download an app onto my phone. I even enrolled in an online class that I completed entirely from home. Now, having left the community college, I am enrolled in fully online classes once again. The headquarters for this school is thousands of miles away from me and yet completely accessible. My school can now be portable, since all I need is a computer. It is more affordable, since the physical materials necessary are so limited. I can receive specialized feedback from an experienced teacher without having to take time out of my day to drive to a campus.
Although I didn’t touch much on personality, as a more introverted person, having an available path to achieve my goals on my own terms is a huge comfort. The potential of technology making education more accessible is huge: not just for those who don’t want to drive to school, but more importantly, for those who can’t. No longer must class, income, or location get in the way of someone’s desire to learn. With as little as a now-common smartphone anyone can learn a new language. This new era of technology has presented more opportunities that we know what to do with; the opportunity “market” so to speak is unbelievably saturated.
Now, I’m not suggesting to replace teachers with apps. What I am suggesting, however, and what I hope for, is the realization that technology has a huge potential in education, and with Artificial Intelligence around the corner, the horizon will only expand. One teacher may not be able to teach in twenty different styles to engage all their students, but one app can be customized to thousands of different people, needs, and situations. While the idea of artificial intelligence can seem frightening, I view it as a beam of hope; imagine a teacher finally being able to keep on top of all her papers with a virtual assistant, or a student with what seems like no more than a computer but is actually unlimited access to information that, without technology, could be oceans away.