Education is not meeting its own objectives. It is not always relevant, and is a reflection of past practice which is based on an efficiency model. To me, the biggest problem I see in our education system in Ontario, is that students need a more individualized program to better meet their academic, emotional and social needs. Sir Ken Robinson (Robinson, 2006) in his famous TEDtalk, How school kills creativity, discusses the Industrial model that current education systems employ. In my opinion, technology used appropriately, is the best tool to make an individualized program possible, making learning more current and relevant, which would in turn would bridge this gap.
In the elementary and generally most secondary classrooms, students are expected to learn a standardized curriculum. These are difficult to update due to its paper technology (The Elementary Mathematics and English Curriculums were last revised, 2005 and 2006 respectively), and the influence of those outside the education system (ie. The 2010 Debate over elementary health curriculum changes). Expectations for each grade have overall and specific expectations that are to be reported on, on a standardized report card. Limited funding often makes teaching subjects more difficult. If a student has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), then this gives special permission for varying from the curriculum. Unfortunately, additional resources to support this, whether staff, or other things, are limited or non-existent.
Standardized testing also is an illustration of the focus on the masses instead of the individual. At the ETFO (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario) 2012 General Meeting, Mr. McGuinty, who was still Premier of Ontario, expressed that he was using the Standardized testing to validate spending in Education to the public.
Once students enter secondary school, there is more possibility of choices of courses, which would suggest a more individualized focus. This however is greatly affected by school population and timetabling issues instead of individual student interest or need. My daughter and some of her friends are experiencing this in their last year of high school. There is of course the option of taking online courses. At this point however, from personal observation, there is even less individualization of these online high school courses.
Beginning trends that support technology use to bridge the gap? Students with IEPs: – given laptops with Assistive Technology and internet to support their learning; – given different computer versions of EQAO, and the ability to use Assistive Technology. I doubt that most teachers who do not teach the associated EQAO grades and the public would probably know that there were test differences. Is this worse that the public thinks that students with IEPs are writing the exact same test? The modified test however is standardized for those with the required IEP requirements.
Outside the classroom, students use various technologies to individualize their learning almost daily. People find information that is important to them, in a format that is easiest for them to use. The Did You Know Video we watched in class, showed that Youtube is the second most used search engine, which uses Video and Audio information. I know that as a learner, I often use Youtube to find out how to do things – it certainly made the refinishing of our siding much easier to do this past summer. Students enjoy gaming, and learn various ways to interact with peers, problem solve and manage many different variables at the same time. Students often find the best way they can learn using technology on their own. Webinars, MOOCs, and so much more. It is unfortunate that our curriculum does not recognize this learning.
In the classroom, much technology (ie. Smartboard) is being used to support the teaching to the masses, but there are opportunities, where technology is being used to support the individual learning of students. Khan Academy is a great example of this (https://www.khanacademy.org). (What a great start up page too!). If you have a chance, read over the ideas of Khan Academy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_Academy#Services_and_vision).
I think the possibilities of using gaming in education is just beginning to be seen in elementary and secondary education too. Some serious educational games are mentioned on this website: http://www.onlinecolleges.net/50-great-sites-for-serious-educational-games/.
Shift is happening… technology will help it get there… but way too slow for me.
Robinson, K. (2006). How school kills creativity. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html