Students are Learning Remotely OnlineThe rise of online learning is helping more students get an education from home. In 2011, the online learning industry was worth around $35.6 billion. Last year it had grown to be worth $56.2 billion, and it's expected to be worth twice that by 2015.
Online education allows children living in rural communities to connect with trained teachers and other students in virtual classrooms. Adults are also finding it easier to further their education as online courses allow them to juggle classes with full-time employment. Whether students are interested in gaining their GED or pursuing an online criminal justice degree, online learning allows them to do it without ever leaving the comfort of their home, at a time that suits them.
Textbooks are InteractiveOnce upon a time textbooks were boring tomes that struggled to hold the interests of even the most motivated students. However, technology has given many of these resources a modern makeover.
Reading a new e-textbook is an interactive experience. Animations and videos are replacing static diagrams and photographs. Rather than reading a series of quiz questions, students can take an interactive assessment on the information they've learned. They can also highlight key facts and take digital notes for easier revision. Like all digital books, e-textbooks are also cheaper to print than physical books, and these reduced costs are passed on to cash-strapped students.
Boards are More EngagingAcross the country, old-fashioned chalkboards are being replaced by modern, interactive whiteboards. Like a cross between a large tablet and a big-screen TV, officials in Miami-Dade County are so impressed by the technology that they've pledged to put one in every local classroom by the end of 2015.
Teachers can project materials from their computers onto the interactive whiteboards, and then write on them to clarify information like a traditional whiteboard. This information can then be printed, so students can focus on lessons rather than taking notes. Students can also project their own work onto the boards during class presentations. The whiteboards are particularly effective for visual learners who were often neglected by the auditory focus of traditional classrooms.
Technology Enhancing Special Needs EducationTechnology is improving learning outcomes for a range of special needs students. With eye-gaze devices, students with severe disabilities need only use their eyes to type with onscreen keyboards to conduct research or write papers. Students with mobility issues can also use eye-gaze to turn pages of e-books if they don't have the dexterity to turn the virtual pages. Text-to-speech, sound amplifier, and closed-captioning apps allow visually and hearing impaired students to harness the educational potential of smartphones and tablets.
Students with behavioral challenges are also seeing the benefits of technology in the classroom. For example, students with autism are finding it easier to learn from the robot Nao than human teachers.
"Robots are simpler … There are no subtle non-verbal behaviours to confuse them," Dr. Lila Kossyvaki of the Autism Center for Education Research explained. "So they focus on what the robot does, or says … it is much easier for them to focus on the social demands."
Technology Making Education Greener
It makes sense as online learning doesn't require printed handouts, textbooks, or other paper resources. Teachers and students also don't need to take their cars or public transport to a virtual classroom.It's clear that the days of pen and paper education are over. Technology is sweeping our education system and, according to many experts, changing it for the better.