A wide range of technologies are bringing newer and better options for providing differentiated instruction.
Not only does technology provide support to teachers to bring flexibility and choice to students, it also enables learning for individual students with a range of differences in their learning abilities. Students with difficulty in hearing, speaking, moving, reading, writing, understanding the language of instruction etc. are all greatly benefitted by technology.
Everyday there are students from all walks of life with differences in age, colour, background, and from societies large and small, rural and urban, as well as from the suburbs who are all utilizing the wide range of technology services and tools to enhance learning and to add a real world element, dimension, relevance and context to their learning. Technology as an enabler is being used by students on a bus ride home, accessing their smart phones to check on a math problem or for working in collaboration with students across the country on a science paper about the Gulf oil spill while engaged in an online environmental science class. And these are in fact examples of what 6th graders are doing! Yes, the learning environment around the world has changed in just the last five years for many students the world over! Technology and the sophistication that it affords to educators and educationists is something to be documented. In the year 2005 we heard half of the 6th graders telling us that they owned a cell phone.
Statistics for you:
Today apart from this statistic, there is another additional one-third who says they own a smart phone. Almost 73 percent of 6th graders own an MP3 player compared to one third in 2005. In 2005 we heard complaints from students telling us that the internet in their school was slow, today we have the same students complaining that the school filters and firewalls are not allowing them access to their school work when they need them! Today more than half the numbers of 6th graders take tests online and more than 50% of this population have taken an online class. Upto 50% of the students are using e-textbooks and last but not the least, most of the girls in the 6th grade are active on social networking sites while one third of the boys in the 6th grade are regular on these sites although many of these 6th graders are not old enough to legally register on these sites. We have all seen that most students today are tech savvy and fluent with emerging technologies and that most of them participate in 3D virtual reality worlds.
The transforming power of technology is seen in the percentage of the student community that is tapping into the power of educational games and while learning both in and out of school. While many students seem to depend on their teachers to provide them with the support for the enhanced digital learning opportunities, there are those that are called “Free Agent Learners” who look for online learning resources in order to follow a passion for a particular subject or topic where they feel the need for additional information and details.
While we are seeing this trend in the leveraging of technology in education, we have to introspect and see what these students will look for 5 years from now?
With the emerging technologies like mobile learning, online classes, e-tutoring and others, do we envisage that these will become commonplace in all of our nation’s future classrooms?
How does E-learning and E-tutoring leverage technology?
We see that e-learning and e-tutoring have leveraged technology to the fullest extent possible. While this may be true e-tutoring and online tutoring do have their fair share of challenges.
Education has taken many twists and turns along its path over the decades, but the tutor has always been the torch-bearer inspiring his/her students. The importance of a tutor in a student's education will never decline. Technology has been actively helping tutors improve their efficiency and deliverability. There are a million ways in which technology has been used in education. Yet, the optimal way to leverage technology in education is still debatable.
Role of a tutor in e learning:
A tutor offering to teach on an e learning platform has to familiarize himself / herself with a variety of online tools and applications including learning management systems like blackboard and Moodle and content management systems like WordPress and Joomla! In addition, the tutor has to create a friendly and social Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and motivate and engage the students since the feeling of isolation for a student in e learning is more compared to the traditional learning. The tutor plays a significant role in e learning and has to engage the students through discussion boards,interactive forums, emails, chats and bulletin boards. The tutor has to constantly motivate the student with well-designed curriculum supported by images, audio and video available in flexible formats as per the needs of the students.
With the numerous ways in which students are leveraging technology, we find that e-tutoring has been consistently contributing to their being “Enabled, Empowered and Engaged”. Building on the students’ vision, e tutoring and e learning platforms are today focusing on three specific areas and key trends…
Mobile learning, online and blended learning as well as e-textbooks.
Enabling: E tutoring ensures that students reach their highest potential with the increased access to educational resources and expert guidance which helps them learn beyond the limitations of the classroom or school.
Engaging students in compelling and rich learning experiences which enables greater skill development especially in areas of critical thinking, problem solving which are most needed today
Empowering them with the capacity to take additional responsibility for their own education and thereby helping them to explore knowledge in an unencumbered manner with healthy curiosity creating a generation of lasting lifetime learners.