Technologies such as the internet and enabling devices including mobile phones, tablets, desktops and the millions of programs and apps that are available to anyone at the touch of a finger has dramatically impacted just about every industry and organization. This is especially true for the institution of education.
Consider the record management and access to records. When going to college in the 1970’s, one had to fill out a paper form, go to the records building, hand in the request and come back in a couple of days to pick it up a transcript. Today academic records can be accesses and retrieved in seconds. The person requesting access can do it from home. Anyone who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s may remember the pain one had to go through to transfer school records from one institution to another. Today, it can be done almost instantaneously. It doesn’t really matter where in the world you are residing, the internet allows instant access. The bottom line there is far more flexibility when changing schools, going back to school after a long absence or providing prospective employers electronic copies of transcripts and diplomas.
Consider the Class Room. Years ago, if a professor or teacher did put on a presentation, it was with a slide projector. Remember slide projectors? How often would the lecture have to be stopped to un-jam one of the slides or reorient a slide that was put in upside down or backward. Today, teachers can create elaborate power point presentations that include YouTube videos, animations and great graphics. This presentation can not only be shown in to a class room, but to thousands of students on the internet who are located remotely. These students who may be in classrooms in a different part of world or event in their home can not only view the presentation, but actively engage with the presenter.
Years ago, knowledge was contained in selective text books and in the head of some teachers. Students and to purchase these books and physically attend the teachers class so that they can share in the knowledge. Today, anyone in any part of the world has access to both the content of the text and the wisdom of the professor without buying a book or attending a class. Literally 100s of books can be contained in one e-reader, a device that is a little bigger than a wallet and weighs just a few ounces. Geographic location or income is no longer a barrier to obtaining knowledge.
Consider the parent of a grade school student. Years ago the primary method that a teacher communicated with the parents was by notes being sent home with child. If there needed to be any more direct communication, then the parent had to come into school to make an appointment, or if lucky be able to contact the teacher by phone. Today a parent can go online and find out tomorrow’s lesson plan, what today’s homework assignment is and view the upcoming school events on the school calendar. Face to face contact with teachers is still important, but emails and text messaging allow parents to communicate while at work. Social media can be used to promote events and let parents and students comment.
With the good that comes from technology, there are challenges. Years ago students would get distracted by passing notes. Today students are distracted by texting friends, and posting to Facebook, snap chat, instagram etc. Technology and social media has created more avenues for students to get in trouble by sending and sharing inappropriate content using the sometimes questionable judgment that a thirteen year old possesses. Social media provides another avenue for bullying. How much problems has YouTube caused, seemly encouraging bad behavior so it can be posted for millions of viewer to watch. School records can now be hacked with private data being stolen, or servers getting injected with virus’s that will shut down access to these records.
Hopefully the benefits of technology and its affect on education will far outweigh its problems and challenges. Scanning and digitizing microfilm, microfiche and aperture cards was one small way that helped enable the technology transformation that we have been experiencing over the last decade and will continue to experience far into the future.