Cy­ber school­rooms: Chang­ing face of school today


The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Education - Se­tiono Sugi­harto) The writer is an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at Atma Jaya Catholic Univer­sity, Jakarta. He can be reached at se­tiono.sugi­

In keep­ing with the chang­ing face of ed­u­ca­tion, schools are in­cor­po­rat­ing more and more tech­nol­ogy in les­son plans. Con­sider the avail­abil­ity of dig­i­tized re­sources such as smart teach­ing boards, video cam­eras, au­dio recorders, speech syn­the­siz­ers, text con­vert­ers and power point pre­sen­ta­tions, to name a few.

Fu­eled by the ex­pec­ta­tion that peo­ple today must be tech-savvy, schools have no choice but to pre­pare stu­dents for to be tech­nol­ogy lit­er­ate and to make sure that they do not lag be­hind.

The real chal­lenge, how­ever, is not how many dig­i­tal de­vices schools have but rather how tech­nol­ogy is used in class­rooms.

In his en­counter with a com­puter in learn­ing English, a third grader at a pri­vate school in Tangerang, Matthew Adriel, was fas­ci­nated by how fast and eas­ily he could do an as­sign­ment with the help of a de­vice in his school lab. Learn­ing how to dis­tin­guish col­ors and shapes in English, he, along with his school­mates, was asked to match and paste var­i­ous col­ors to dif­fer­ent shapes pro­vided.

For Matthew, learn­ing English fa­cil­i­tated via a com­puter was a fun and en­cour­ag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Matthew’s ex­pe­ri­ence in learn­ing il­lus­trates the fact that the in­te­gra­tion of com­put­ers into a les­son can make stu­dents more en­thu­si­as­tic about learn­ing. That’s cer­tainly the merit of tech­nol­ogy in ed­u­ca­tion.

Yet, while most schools today have equipped them­selves with a wealth of new tech­no­log­i­cally wired re­sources, en­cour­ag­ing learn­ers to be cre­ative and in­de­pen­dent in think­ing and solv­ing prob­lems, a host of chal­lenges and con­cerns re­main.

Many ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts have warned of the down­side of the net. Most web pages, they say, are like the wilder­ness, and not many teach­ers are ad­e­quately trained to use the in­ter­net cre­atively.

Oth­ers go on to say that dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments are of­ten char­ac­ter­ized by non-stan­dard forms, which can dis­tort and even weaken lan­guage devel­op­ment. Still, oth­ers claim that ev­i­dence is still ab­sent as to whether the use of com­put­ers boosts learn­ing and im­proves test scores.

To tackle the prob­lems, they ex­hort, tech­nol­ogy can be best used in schools as a learn­ing path to reach ed­u­ca­tional goals. It should be placed in the back­ground, not the fore­ground.

It seems clear that the chal­lenge for schools now is not sim­ply to pre­pare stu­dents to be tech­nol­ogy lit­er­ate but more im­por­tantly to guide them to be morally re­spon­si­ble for what they ex­plore in cy­berspace.

Vi­o­lent, racist, blas­phe­mous and porno­graphic ma­te­ri­als are just some of the con­tent of the wired tech­nol­ogy that await stu­dents once they are ready to go on­line.

Schools can­not take for granted that tech-savvy and wired kids are able to ap­ply a crit­i­cal eye to what they read on the net. The para­dox “that the more ad­vanced their knowl­edge about tech­nol­ogy, the more gullible they be­come” rings true here. They might think that ev­ery­thing they read on­line is the truth and is in­fal­li­ble. Here, teacher in­ter­ven­tion is vi­tal to help them sort the wheat from the chaff, to iden­tify mis­in­for­ma­tion.

Today’s stu­dents are of the net gen­er­a­tion, grow­ing up mostly in wired house­holds and vicini­ties. It comes as no sur­prise that their knowl­edge of tech­nol­ogy may be more ad­vanced than that of their teach­ers and par­ents. For this rea­son, school­work that asks them sim­ply to per­form tasks on dig­i­tal de­vices may be­come mun­dane and frus­trat­ing for them.

Teach­ers then must go be­yond equip­ping chil­dren with the know-how of tech­nol­ogy. They must make the stu­dents cog­nizant of the mer­its and de­mer­its of tech­nol­ogy in their lives and how it af­fects achiev­ing learn­ing goals.

Nev­er­the­less, the ex­po­nen­tial rise of dig­i­tal de­vices hith­erto, while nec­es­sary for fa­cil­i­tat­ing suc­cess­ful teach­ing and learn­ing, should not make teach­ers heav­ily de­pen­dent on them. In a re­cent ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Tech­nol­ogy in Lan­guage Use, Lan­guage Teach­ing and Lan­guage Learn­ing pub­lished” in The Mod­ern Lan­guage Jour­nal, Chun, Kern and Smith (2016) say that with re­gard to the use of tech­nol­ogy in ed­u­ca­tion, teach­ers must con­sider such as­pects as learn­ing goals, the abil­i­ties and in­ter­ests of the learn­ers, the avail­abil­ity of re­sources and the aca­demic cul­ture of a school.

In most cir­cum­stances, there are good rea­sons for cling­ing to con­ven­tional ways of teach­ing to reach learn­ing goals. Com­put­ers and the in­ter­net are ped­a­gog­i­cal tools like books, pen­cils and chalk­boards, and may have draw­backs. They is no sub­sti­tute for hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

The emer­gence of dig­i­tal de­vices is not meant to re­sult in the aban­don­ment of book-bound comics, bi­ogra­phies, nov­els and in­di­vid­ual face-to face in­ter­ac­tion or group in­ter­ac­tion.

As so­phis­ti­cated as dig­i­tal sto­ry­telling is where writ­ten text can be mixed with mu­sic, voice, sound and images, it won’t be able to help chil­dren de­velop proper lan­guage skills. They must lis­ten and talk di­rectly to real peo­ple, and be given feed­back about the proper con­ven­tions of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Sim­i­larly, ev­i­dence abounds that read­ing printed books at home and in a pub­lic li­brary helps ac­cel­er­ate stu­dents’ lan­guage devel­op­ment. Also, per­form­ing sim­ple tasks like draw­ing and color­ing us­ing crayons and glu­ing pa­per is no less fun and en­cour­ag­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence for young learn­ers.

Thus, the chang­ing face of ed­u­ca­tion by no means ren­ders the tra­di­tional wis­dom of con­ven­tional teach­ing worth­less and in­signif­i­cant for suc­cess­fully achiev­ing ed­u­ca­tional goals. (

Courtesy of NJIS

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