“To thrive in a digital world, students need to learn how to sort through unlimited information sources. Schools need to arm them with the skepticism and critical thinking they need to do that. And that requires that school to embrace digital devices as learning tools” (“Big”). This quote by Lisa Neielson, the Flora Stone Mather Center Director, shows that schools need to embrace educational technology so students can excel in the twenty-first century digital world. Some people think that digital technology should be banned from classrooms, while others believe we should embrace it as it is a great source of endless information. According to a study done by Richard Peterson, Professor at the University of Mathematics and Statistics, shows that educational technology improves learning tremendously when used correctly (Carter et al). Educational Technology has improved over the last decade, making educational technology a necessity in classrooms.

Educational technology is first introduced when children begin their educational career in Elementary school. Many students are even introduced to educational technology before beginning Elementary school. Many children are given the opportunity to experience a plethora of educational tools such as self-reading books, educational games, different preschool levels and opportunities, and more. When students enter Elementary school, they are introduced to the blended approach to education. The blended approach takes the traditional face to face learning between students and a teacher and combines it with the educational technology aspect to find the best balance to give students the greatest advantage in learning (Orgill and Hervey). Critics claim that this blended approach is introduced to students too young of age making teachers at all levels feel less relevant. It has been claimed that when students are given the blended approach at a young age, these students will become more dependent on technology and less dependent on teacher-student interactions. It is thought that if students are becoming too dependent on technology at a young age, then by the time they mature into high school students they will be focused on the technology aspect of learning, making teachers irrelevant. Teacher Unions are concerned with the fact that educational technology could become the number one source of learning, making teachers almost no longer existent (Orgill and Hervey). These claims however, have been proven to be untrue.

            Teachers are not only still relevant, but as educational technology advances; they will become even more relevant than they are today. The Sloan Survey of Online Learning in 2010 shows that the best source of education comes from a mix of educational technology and face to face teacher-student interactions. The increasing use of educational technology will also keep teachers relevant because it gives teachers creative and new ways to teach students including more one on one mentoring opportunities, as well as meetings and more. The United States Department of Education data from the year 2009 shows that students who take an online class or use educational technology in their learning preform adequately better, on average, than students who learn the same lessons through only classic learning, where educational technology is non-existent (Orgill and Hervey). Garth Harries, the superintendent of New Haven school district in Missouri, justified “I applaud Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and the New Haven delegations for recognizing the need as well and investing in technology for schools that will lead to brighter futures for our children. This grant allows us to add thousands of computers to classrooms and will help students be better prepared for the way they will work and learn in the rest of their life” (“New”). At the end of this quote, Harries exclaimed that the technology will help students prepare for the way the will work for the rest of their lives, showing that technology will be relevant for the rest of these students lives. When the technology is relevant for the rest of a student’s life, started with the blended teaching approach is the best option. Teaching the blended educational model early will also indefinitely prepare students for his or her transition to high school and college.

              In high school, educational technology has a greater emphasis and becomes a tool that will become extremely useful in most or all classes. High schools continue to use the blended approach, but tend to push more to using educational technology rather than the classic paper-pencil approach. Teachers can use websites such as “NoodleTools”, “Moodle”, “EasyBib”, “Schoology”, and so many more as tools to advance the classroom. These types of websites allow teachers to create class agendas, tests, exams, homework, useful websites, and tools for students in that teachers class to see and use. Websites such as these give students the tools to create the best education possible for themselves too. These tools can be a great advantage when a student is sick, where students can check what he or she missed, download homework, and even check what they will miss in the future if he or she knows they will be gone, allowing them to stay on task and be prepared for the next day in class. One very important practice students learn while using these websites is note taking and organization. Note taking and organization is a major key to success in college, as most professors will only go through the lectures, assuming the student will take notes that will be beneficial to him or her. The introduction to more tools and sources in high school give students the ability to familiarize and become knowledgeable with how to use educational technology to their advantage everywhere they go whether that is school, job interviews, work, and even to familiarize with rules before a permit or driver’s test. Using educational technology in school prepares you for not only receiving a higher education, but also for the open world where educational technologies can give a student endless possibilities. If a student decides to go to that secondary schooling option, or more known as college, he or she will most likely be attending a virtual school.

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            A virtual school is a school that teaches partially online or even offer full courses online; these schools are also known as a cyber-school. Virtual schooling can happen on all levels of education, kindergarten through secondary educations, but it mainly appears and is emphasized in high school and college. The bulk of colleges and universities started offering online degrees in 2010; millions of students each year take part in these online courses to earn their degrees (“Technology”). In the Sloan Survey for Online Learning that was referred to before, showed that over 3 million students took part in or attended an online school. This study also found that in 2010, over 5.6 million students took one or more online or online based class during the fall of 2009 semester, which was an 21 percent increase from the previous year of 2008. These numbers have been proven to be increasing as technology advances and schools introduce new and creative educational technology opportunities (Orgill and Hervey). Virtual schools come with an abundance of advantages that give students an edge to their education.

            Virtual schooling comes with many advantages, such as lower class costs. Classes online can be considerably lower in price compared to traditional classes offered through colleges. Virtual schools also provide a seemingly infinite amount of class options that are available to all students; whether a student is going for financing, teaching, or any other profession, there are more class options online than there would be on a single college campus (“Technology”). Virtual schools that partake in online practices, whether that is a class fully online or a class that uses educational technology as its main recourse gives students the chance to share ideas locally, nationally, and even globally. Educational technology also enhances classroom activities.

Online educational technology can improve classroom interactions by allowing students to use tools such as videoconferencing to gain experiences and interactions that are otherwise not available to a student in a traditional classroom setting. Through videoconferencing, blogs, videos, discussion posts, and other interactions students can share their ideas and thoughts with one another on school topics and lesson on the local level with other classmates, all the way to the global level, with students from around the world. Sharing ideas can advance classroom interactions by giving students new ideas and concepts to see a problem or experiment in a new and creative way. Sonia Livingston, Professor of psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, touched on sharing new ideas and gaining opportunities in a recent interview;

Social networking sites have been rapidly adopted by children and, especially, teenagers and young people worldwide, enabling new opportunities for the presentation of the sell learning, construction of a wide circle of relationships, and the management of privacy and intimacy. (Huffman)

This shows that using online technology can open up an immense amount of new and creative opportunities through the spreading of ideas between students. Students can also share helpful links to websites, programs, videos, blogs, and more to benefit each other in researching and studying. Online education also benefits students who need to work to provide money for his or her family or for those who already have a job. Students can take classes that are scheduled around their job, and some classes even let students start any time of the day (“Technology”). While virtual schools are an extravagant way to learn and exceed in education, critics have claimed that it is hard to motivate these students taking online or partially online classes due to the fact that there are far too many distractions.

            Motivating students to stay on task and get his or her work done on time can be a struggle according to critics of virtual schooling and educational technology. Critics claim that students will be too tempted to focus on other devices and push class off until the final moments, rather than getting the class work done in an orderly fashion. Students however, should be motivated for many reasons while taking online classes. When signing up for classes online, students will have an abundance of options to choose from, giving them the freedom to choose from more interesting classes that are not offered on campus. Teachers also help motivate students that take full online or partial online classes. Teachers can see how much time you have spent on the online course; so many teachers keep track of class time. Teachers can also communicate frequently with students through email to give quality feedback on homework and reports so students can improve on what he or she has learned. Just like in high school, teachers can share starting-points. These starting points could be helpful links, videos, and even general tips to help students obtain a better understanding of the lesson or project (Murphy and Rodriguez-Manzanares). One area of educational technology that continues to be a controversial discussion is what is known as the Digital Divide.

            The Digital Divide is the division between the students who can afford to use these educational tools at home and the students who can not afford to use the technology at home or do not have updated tools to enhance his or her learning ability (Herling). When classes use educational technology as their main source, students who are a part of the digital divide can fall behind in class (Shah). With paper materials and textbooks, there is a sense of trust as where all students will be able to obtain the same tools to exceed in the classroom. In the census of the year 2000 done by the United States, data showed that over half of children and students who lived in a household with a family income of 75000 dollars or more owned a household computer; however, only 15 percent of children who lived in a household with a family income of 20000 to 25000 owned a computer. From the same census, data showed that 65 percent of all Americans have access to broadband connections; while only 45 percent of the 25000 or lower income range families have access to broadband connection (Celano and Neuman). These statistics are continuing to grow, showing that the digital divide is a real concern. Granting public school districts funds to help advance students learning is an appreciable way of diminishing the fear of what is known as the digital divide.

Every year, the Department of Education gives out millions of dollars in grants to public school districts to help advance students learning and overall educational experience. During the 20th century, the majority of these grants given to schools were used to advance educational technology. New Haven public schools received 2.7 million dollars on November 16, 2013, to make advancements to their school district to benefit student education. New Haven’s school district received the largest portion of the 24 million dollars that were given out to a total of 126 different schools (“New”). Abbe Smith, whom is Hamden District’s Spokeswomen, commented “As we transition to Common Core State standards, this grant will get our classrooms equipped with the instructional technology necessary to have our students excel academically and be college and career ready” (“New”). New Haven wanted to be able to give their students access to educational technology so that these students would not only have an educational source that creates millions of new ways to learn in and out of a classroom, but also using these sources of educational technology on a daily basis will result in the accumulated knowledge of how to use these resources to his or her advantage. Being able to use these resources to gain or advance knowledge to the students advantage and know how to use them properly will set him or her up for success in multiple areas including in secondary education, in professional fields, and in the home setting. New Haven’s school district used this grant to focus mainly on the advancement of their schools educational technology.

            Striving to achieve the one to one laptop to student ratio, New Haven school district purchased 3000 laptops. When dealing with great amounts of computers, it would be senseless and time consuming to attempt to teach every teacher how to troubleshoot and fix any problems or errors that would occur; consequently, New Haven school district hired a Computer Information Specialist. After buying a plethora of laptops, the newly acquired Information Specialist claimed that the bandwidth, or commonly known as Wi-Fi speed, would be in need of a major upgrade. They proceeded to upgrade the bandwidth for all schools in the New Haven school district, allowing faster online computer speeds and also faster downloading speeds for downloading programs, worksheets, books, and more (“New”). Many school districts hire what is known as a Technology Coach. These coaches will come in and teach the schools the teachers on how to handle simple tasks on the computer as well as troubleshooter simple errors and problems (“Piedmont”). New Haven schools not only upgraded their educational technology, but they also upgraded their security and fire alarms, assuring that these students will have a safe environment to learn in (“New”). This is just one example of how one school has realized that technology will be a part of most, if not all, student’s day to day life as long as they live; consequently, schools are starting to put more money into the advancement of educational technology, better preparing students for life after high school. Educational technology has been shown to be beneficial to all students, but students with disabilities benefit the most with the use of these tools.

            Students with disabilities benefit the most because educational technology allows these students to adapt to classroom learning in the most beneficial way possible. There is a vast amount of tools to help students with mental and physical disorders, as well as medical conditions and behavioral issues. These tools include, but are not limited to, special mice and keyboards for students with physical disorders, special programs such as text-to-speech, and enlarged words for speech and reading impediments, and also audio amplification for students with hearing disorders. These tools help students tremendously advance in education and allow students with disabilities to learn at a higher level (Huffman). One example of putting these tools to an amazing use would be the story of Kyle Nordheimer and Maurice Van Lowe. Kyle Nordheimer and Maurice Van Lowe were both high school students who struggle with a disability called dyslexia. Dyslexia is a disability that makes it a challenge to read and interpret words, letters, or other symbols. By using an online website called Bookshare, both students were able to read at a much more advanced level due to the help it gave these students. Bookshare allowed them to space out words and enlarge text to their liking to benefit their reading abilities (Shah). Bookshare allows students to enhance their learning abilities through many different techniques.

            Bookshare is a website that allows students to change books into a way that students with disabilities can understand better. Students can change font size, word spacing, and also number of words on a page so students can better understand the text. Students can also have books read out loud to them or have the words highlighted as they read. Before Bookshare, students would have to carry around large devices to help magnify text, or wait months for a library to receive new audio books. Now, Bookshare receives copies of books the day after they are published, giving students the ability to listen to new books right away and enlarge text by the click of a button. Backed by a 32 million dollar grant from the United States Department of Education, Bookshare can be found free to any and all students with disabilities. Bookshare was also granted another 3 million dollars to invest further in accessing books, including new mobile applications and downloadable books to access wherever (Shah). The only valid critic about using educational technology with students who are disabled is that teachers will also have to adapt to their learning disabilities.

            There are very few, if any, teachers who are not willing to adapt with these students. The only openly known complaint about teachers adapted would be if a teacher is not comfortable with wearing an audio amplifier. Teachers want their students to achieve, and the majority of teachers are willing to adapt with the student to create the best learning environment possible.

            Educational Technology can be one of the most useful recourses for learning and advancing ones education when used correctly. As technology advances more and more over the decades, new opportunities for educational advances follow. Using educational technology to benefit classroom learning is becoming the main source of learning. To survive in the centuries to come, students will need to be able to use and comprehend these tools to help better his or her education and life after schooling. Technology will never stop advancing; through more research, it will only become more abundant in the world. There is no stopping the technological movement; consequently, the best way to cope with these advancements, is to learn how to use them to benefit knowledge and education as they are intended to do.


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