A pioneer in massive online courses shares his perspective on a solid approach.
GUEST COLUMN | by Ping-Cheng Yeh
The children of today are exposed to tablets, phones, games, television and computers at an early age. Students of today love technology, but that is not all; their characteristics are slightly different than ours. According to studies, students of today have shortened attention spans, derive motivation from peers instead of teachers, and define their accomplishments through both real and virtual means. From my experiences teaching for 15 years, finding technology tools, and empowering students, I believe that we need technology for these five reasons:
1. Technology can empower students and their families.
Technology empowers students to take control of their learning journey, whether through doing their own research or using adaptive platforms like Khan Academy. Particularly relevant here is one-to-one computing in our schools and districts. Students may be allowed to take home their own devices for homework, research and other purposes—and that can have a positive impact on their home environments. Some families in lower-income communities may only be able to access technology through their children’s school laptops. This offers an unprecedented chance for us as educators to reach out to families, communicate with parents, or even spread education in the families of our students.
Not all of us educators are very prone to using technology, but if we use it right and let technology help us, it can save us a ton of time.
2. Collaboration is so easy!
Using technology can allow our students to collaborate – and not cheat! – more easily and achieve more powerful results. The Google Apps for Education suite is a great example, because it allows students to be more collaborative. There are so many other tools that also incorporate more of a social network feel to allow for more communication among students and between teachers and students. Students can comment on each other’s essays and they can ask each other questions easily. The collaboration also includes me as a teacher. I am able to answer questions more quickly and students are more likely to ask questions through technology.
3. Technology allows for more personalization.
In larger classrooms, it can be extremely difficult to pay attention to every single student. Oftentimes, there are a few students that take a lot of our attention, even though others may need it, too. Technology helps us as educators identify whom to pay attention to and how to do it properly. Some tools allow us to keep tabs on and nurture students who are struggling, and remind students who are already doing well to keep up their good work.
4. It saves us time.
Not all of us educators are very prone to using technology, but if we use it right and let technology help us, it can save us a ton of time. We can more easily receive, store and arrange important data about our students by offering online quizzes, storing data online to get a better understanding of students’ developments and identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Data is an area where a lot of time can be saved and paperwork eliminated.
5. Technology raises student engagement.
Technology can empower students, it can provide alternative ways to learn things, it can make lessons adaptive and it can raise student engagement. It is so much easier to motivate students to learn something new, if they are doing it using the technology they enjoy and are familiar with. I personally am a firm believer in the power of gamification to raise student engagement, which is why I invented PaGamO, an online gaming platform for students and teachers that uses competition and social features to allow students to learn, collaborate and succeed. There are variety of other ways that help us teachers engage our students in our classrooms through technology, whether that is allowing them to prepare lesson plans, having them keep learning diaries, or recording scientific experiments with photos and drawings on tablets.
Technology is what our students and children love. If we accept that as a given, we can truly use it to our advantage to engage our students and allow them to succeed in the classroom.
Ping-Cheng Yeh is co-founder at BoniO, a leader in gamification for education. Their platform, PaGamO, is among the world’s first-ever multi-student social gaming platforms that can support any general courses and is widely used in K-12 education, colleges, and corporate training. As a professor at National Taiwan University, Ping-Cheng developed one of the first-ever MOOCs taught in Chinese on Coursera.