By: Brent Peaslee
Education may be the most exciting field to enter during this technological era. The traditional rules of teaching are being entirely rethought. What and how a student learns once were dependent on where a student lives and the economic status of both that region and of their own family. Now with savvy Internet skills and the will to learn, a world class education can be free. Typically I am a strong opponent of technology in the classroom. I see it as a novelty rather than an effective teaching tool. Even young students in middle school whom I have helped tutor see the flaw in firing teachers to hire smart boards and ipads. In 2009 Congress released an eight year study that found no academic advantage to using technology in the classroom (Mathematica, 2009). However, after personal research it is apparent that the Internet can be an effective teaching aid if used and marketed to students correctly.
These two websites, www.khanacademy.org, and www.TED.com, are tools that will define education in the near future. The Khan Academy is a free service that tutors students on a wide variety of subjects from pre-algebra to calculus to American politics and economics. Teachers can track and aid their own students. Adolescents to adults are using this free service to educate themselves on topics of interest or even as a free tutor for difficult classes. TED videos are short 5-20 minute lectures from individuals who are at the top of their fields. The mission of TED talks is to spread ideas that can help improve the world. The video links and transcripts of the lectures are free and typically very enjoyable to hear. How can these online resources positively affect my field of teaching?
The focus of my degree is Teaching English as a Second Language. If my students are adolescents then most of my students are taking courses outside of my ESL classroom. They will be taking math, science, history and other required academic classes. Many of them will be pulled out of these classes to enter mine and most of them will be struggling with all of these subjects. These are strong minds who are simply experiencing difficulty communicating their ideas. These two websites will be vital in my classroom. The Khan Academy has nearly every subject that my students will encounter from 6th to 12th grade. With over 2700+ videos in English, and many translated into other languages, this site has the potential to save my students’ education. They will simultaneously work on their English while keeping up with their academic classes. The TED videos will be a way to connect with my students. They will have access to the elites in their fields of interest, such as gaming, arts, and entertainment, while being exposed to the English Language on a topic they love. These sites are an invaluable resource to my classroom.
Both of these sources have been critically acclaimed all over the world. Their greatest downfall is that they are only found on the Internet. This modality is both a great education tool and a great distraction to an individual’s education. The pitfalls of the Internet have been well documented. It is a great time waster and it provides exposure to the worst aspects of humanity. All of this within a few clicks away. As a teacher I think it is important to know that students can and will access the negative aspects of the Internet, but if you emphasize the benefits (Khan Academy, TED videos) they will have exposure to the positive aspects of the Internet as well. It is impossible to make someone want to learn, however these sites can connect learning with a student’s interests. Allowing my adolescent students to choose which Khan Academy lessons most apply to them or which TED talks relate to their interests I am providing them with the freedom they want while still achieving my own course objectives. The negative aspects of the Internet may always exist but websites like the Khan Academy and TED Talks will steer students in the right direction.
Mathematica. (2009). Educational technology: Does it improve academic achievement?. Retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/education/edtech.asp