Sunday, March 6, 2011

Technology in Education

This article (linked in the title) from the NY Times reports on the selective happenings of some students and how they are affected by the general trend towards increased computer use and constant connectivity. The author tries to stay objective in the reporting, but the picture painted is one of change and the difficulties educators have adapting to that change.

While technology may be difficult to adapt to it is not a fad. One of the educators quoted seems to compare advancing tech to rock and roll. Not only does this date the speaker but it also indicates a misunderstanding of technology in general. Rock and roll was and continues to be a category of a narrow section of consumable media. At most one could classify it as a lifestyle. But technology is a much wider empowerment of all lifestyles (save those that reject it).

It's plainly obvious that educators are seeking ways to use technology to better reach students. While this is a worthwhile goal, perhaps it might be more useful to invest in improving motivation, curiosity, and useful curiculum.

As seen in the article, many students are motivated by trade skills like video and audio editing, useful skills that students can easily identify as applicable to their future. I'm not implying that all schools should be trade schools, but the world that values renaissance men and women has past. As technology advances the volume of availible skills and information increases dramatically. Many large corporations spend millions categorizing information and educating their work force. As information explodes it becomes increasingly difficult for one person to know enough about general topics to be any more knowledgable than a search engine. Knowing facts becomes less and less important. Facts can be categorized and searched. Yet schools continue to rely heavily on memorizing things that can be easily looked up on any student's wireless device. It's no wonder students don't like learning algebra or Latin. The modern world simply doesn't need EVERY student to be able to do these things.

At university they used to like to tell us they were teaching us how to learn. Why did it have to wait until university? Why wouldn't I know how to learn before that? We need to teach kids how to learn much earlier. Then we can concentrate on teach skills, not just knowledge.

More Cool jQuery Plugins

There's so many to choose from, but no easy way to find what you need.
Here's some more examples I like.

Cufonized Fly-out Menu: Vertical menu with sliding hover highlight and supplemental fly out descriptions.

Star Rating: Rate something with (5) stars and half stars.

Lazy jQuery Plugin Loader: Load jQuery js files on demand

Inline Form Validation: Tooltips for confirmation or error messages

Auto Suggest: Auto-completion similar to many email clients

FullCalendar: A calendar similar to Google's that you can populate with events or even use with Google's data.