8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
Part 2November 22, 2010 by Sarah Kessler
2. Global Learning
At sites like Glovico.org, students can set up language lessons with a native speaker who lives in another country and attend the lessons via videoconferencing. Learning from a native speaker, learning through social interaction, and being exposed to another culture’s perspective are all incredible educational advantages that were once only available to those who could foot a travel bill. Now, setting up a language exchange is as easy as making a videoconferencing call.
3. Virtual Manipulatives
Let’s say you’re learning about the relationship between fractions, percents and decimals. Your teacher could have you draw graphs or do a series of problems that changes just one variable in the same equation. Or he could give you a “virtual manipulative” like the one above and let you experiment with equations to reach an understanding of the relationship. The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, run by a team at Utah State University, has been building its database of these tools since 1999.
“You used to count blocks or beads,” says Lynne Schrum, who has written three books on the topic of schools and technology. “Manipulating those are a little bit more difficult. Now there are virtual manipulative sites where students can play with the idea of numbers and what numbers mean, and if I change values and I move things around, what happens.”
4. Probes and Sensors
About 15 years ago, the founders of the Concord Consortium took the auto focus sensor from a Polaroid camera and hooked it up to a computer graph program, thereby creating the ability to graph motion in real time. Today there are classrooms all over the world that use ultrasonic motion detectors to demonstrate concepts.
“I’ve taught physics before, and you spend a lot of time getting these ideas of position, and what is velocity, and what does motion really mean and how do you define it,” says Chad Dorsey, the president and CEO of the Concord Consortium. “And you end up spending a lot of time doing these things and trying to translate them into graphs. You could spend a whole period creating a graph for an experiment that you did, and it loses a lot of meaning in that process. By hooking up this ultrasonic motion detector to a graph right away…it gives you a specific real-time feel for what it means to move at faster rates or slower rates or increasing in speed or decreasing in speed and a much more foundational understanding of the topic than you could ever get by just drawing the graph by hand.”
Collecting real-time data through probes and sensors has a wide range of educational applications. Students can compute dew point with a temperature sensor, test pH with a pH probe, observe the effect of pH on an MnO3 reduction with a light probe, or note the chemical changes in photosynthesis using pH and nitrate sensors.