Technology and 21st Century Learning

At school, I study the enzymes that act upon my food through my digestive tract. I study the conjugation of irregular French verbs. I study how to find the point of intersection of two vectors in three dimensions. Academically, I am prepared for success after graduation.

We’ve been taught since elementary school to be independent students, able to research, write, and study on our own. But when I graduate, I will not have learned how to be an independent adult. In order to better prepare students for adult life, the school board needs to add practical skills to the curriculum. Knowing how to find a job, pay taxes, and even cook by the time we leave high school would put us at ease and stop us from worrying so much about how to survive on our own.

Although we haven’t acquired many practical skills at school, we have gained valuable experience with technology. To study terms and definitions, I use Brainscape, a flash card app that keeps track of your progress by allowing you to rate your confidence after each card. Desmos, an online graphing calculator helps visualize and check my work when drawing graphs of various functions. Thanks to French newscasts and movies, I can now hold a conversation. I’d be lost without this plethora of online resources I have at my fingertips. And sometimes even more useful than the explanations or solutions I can find on the Internet is the ability to communicate with my peers at any moment. I use technology to enhance my learning every day, and this use has been supported and encouraged by teachers.

Yes, I am a member of the “technology-obsessed” generation. But I won’t necessarily enjoy a class more or find the content easier to understand if the teacher incorporates technology into their lessons – it completely depends on the type of class and whether it adds to or distracts from the content. Of course, a class like ICS relies solely upon the use of computers and software tools. What would we do without them? Write out thousands of lines of code by hand? With something like math, however, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me whether the teacher writes on the blackboard or the SMARTBoard.

An enthusiastic and eloquent teacher can be equally engaging with or without technology. However, technology allows teachers to design new and unique assignments that are more interesting than the traditional poster and oral presentation. In Grade 10 English, for example, our teacher had us participate in a mock trial. Of course, the key to winning a trial is evidence, and, encouraged by our teacher, my group used a variety of tools to produce this evidence. Through this project, we not only gained a better understanding of the books we had read, but learned the fundamentals of Photoshop and video editing software, digital literacy skills that are useful in the real world as well as in school.

One new technology that could redefine how a myriad of courses are taught is 3D printing. It could be used in engineering and physics classes to demonstrate design principles, in biology to help students study anatomical structures, and in chemistry to model complex molecules. And even beyond presenting the curriculum in a different, more interactive way, the opportunity to use the 3D printer would allow students to develop their problem-solving abilities as they learn through experimentation. Unfortunately, despite the endless possibilities, it has yet to be introduced into the classroom due to the high cost of equipment and maintenance.

While my education in some practical aspects of adult life may be lacking, it has given me significant experience with various forms of technology, helping me develop skills applicable to my future academic pursuits as well as my life outside of school.