The mass implementation of communication technology delivery tools like blogs, wikis, and Twitter has radically changed how information is disseminated and received. Now, for better or worse, anyone interested in a topic can contribute to a conversation, rather than rely solely on “experts” in a given field. The report “How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education,” by The Brookings Institute, discusses the varying uses and influences of new media on education.
Blogs allow anyone interested in a topic to partake in the discussion. Nielson – the marketing research company -- estimates there are over 156 million blogs on the Internet, with 5,000 blogs in the United States dedicated to education topics alone. Topics range from school finance to instructional technology to pedagogical technique. School officials use blogs to disseminate information to parents and the public, addressing specific problems and how they should be handled. Blogs encourage reflection, critical thinking, enhanced writing skills, and collaboration as long as teachers clearly set guidelines and explain rationale for pedagogic activity.
Wikis are websites that allow multiple users to edit the content. They utilize crowd-sourcing collaboration, meaning a group filter allows collective judgment to determine the best wisdom. Teachers have used wikis to teach poetry, and find them especially useful for distance learning or classes where group work requires applied practice experiences. They also allow student input on reading materials throughout the semester or school year.
Social media and mobile devices offer convenience in the classroom. Students can take handheld devices into the field to gather data or test hypotheses. While social networking sites like Facebook, Google+, and others offer personal recommendations from friends, most primary and secondary schools do not allow social media or mobile devices in school. At some universities, however, professors use Twitter to pose questions prior to class: Research finds there is 87 percent mastery on Tweeted question versus 43 percent mastery of non-Tweeted questions.
Teachers use video games to teach basic concepts and solve practical problems. The report cites The National Research Council which says that video games “enable learners to see and interact with representations of natural phenomena that would otherwise be impossible to observe.” Video games also have built-in feedback that helps teachers identify a student’s weakness without the daunting “wrong answer” paper and pen tests; instead, the student just keeps playing until the player solves the problem at hand.
eTech Ohio has many different programs for bringing technology into the classroom. Through funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), eTech is encouraging school districts across Ohio to invest in 21st century learning and professional development. This push is especially timely as Ohio is transitioning to online assessments in 2014-15.