Friday, September 2, 2011

The New Classroom

Summer is rapidly coming to a close. Students are heading back to their classrooms armed. That is correct, armed as in surgically attached to their mobile devices, tablets and laptops. Welcome to the New Classroom where digital literacy will enhance education.

Read On:
At first educators were skeptical about allowing students to use their gizmos in class – a multi-tasking distraction where they could check text messages, emails, shop online, etc. Now, a new breed of educators is beginning to recognize that if utilized properly, technology can enhance their students’ overall educational experience. Smart move given some of the statistics that have been gathered:

• 98% of college students own a digital device; 38% indicate they cannot go 10 minutes without using a digital device.

• 75% of students claim they wouldn’t be able to study without technology.

• 91% use email to connect with their teachers; 8% use social sites.

So what are some of the different ways technology will be utilized this fall in the New Classroom, specifically as it relates to social media?

For starters, teachers from K-12 (primary and secondary schools) to universities are establishing classroom “backchannels” – real-time digital streams that enhance student engagement. By utilizing Twitter or other microblogging platforms, teachers have found a greater level of participation (e.g., information sharing, questions, etc.) among students, especially those that are normally reticent. Some universities have developed their own backchannel system. One example is Purdue University’s Hotseat which has proven very effective for large lecture halls.

Some schools this year will be replacing their static websites with a Facebook page or are encouraging students to use YouTube to publish their work. Teachers have learned that with careful planning and by encouraging students to post material online, they are witnessing a higher caliber of work. In addition, student/peer collaboration has been enhanced. Unfortunately numerous federal regulations still keep social networking sites off-limits. The American Library Association believes long-term, social media restrictions will constrain education. They advocate librarians and teachers need to educate minors digital literacy, how best to participate online responsibly, ethically and safely.

Welcome to the New Classroom. I am confident that the U.S. Department of Education will sort out all the pros and cons of digital education and reach a middle ground. However, I am beginning to wonder that as we experience the continual evolution of technology, are we going to witness the demise of brick and mortar classrooms.

What do you think?


  1. Love your thoughts Jimmy. We are undergoing a revolution in the way students are being taught these days. While I don't think brick and mortar will go away completely, I do believe that we will see many forms of media be used to teach. It will be those educators who embrace the new mediums who will be successful and sought after vs. those who try to hold on totally to the status quo.

  2. The dilemma is control of the usage of these devices. Middle school and high school students need access to learn these devices, and to harness their power to communicate and teach, while at the same time instructors need to be assured that improper use (i.e. texting, FB) is not occurring during other times when attention need be paid to the instructors. I do wholeheartedly agree that digital tools will significantly change learning, but a concurrent effort to equalize the digital divide between the poor students who have not had easy access, and the middle income students who have been exposed since birth in their households. It will be yet another challenge to educators to tap into the best of these capabilities, without exacerbating the worst bad habits in using them.

  3. As a professor I can attest to the desire to use new media if it adds or enhances the classroom discussion. Otherwise, it's a bit cumbersome. Two: Most college students are not on Twitter. That age group is one of the lowest in using Twitter. Since I teach marketing, I make students sign up for Twitter.

    That said, I am always trying new ideas and up for any suggestions. I do not think brick and mortar goes away at the undergrad level. There still is the need for face to face engagement to facilitate discussion, get to know students, and help them succeed. At the grad level it's another story.

  4. Good points, Jimmy, but there is a potential dark side. Just last night, it was reported that some teachers are connecting with their students via Facebook, and this is considered improper behavior.
    A Missouri state law went into effect Aug. 28 prohibiting social networking between teachers and students ( Such behavior blurs the teacher/student relationship and can lead to litigation. Just think of the cases in the past few years where female teachers took advantage of young male students, and you get the picture, and the potential for disaster if such online connections are allowed to run wild.

  5. Jimmy: This is an important post. There is a huge debate about money spent on schools that is a part of the overall debate about government spending. It costs money to build the technology infrastructure to support this revolution. Remember that is 15 years there will be no printed textbooks and darn few in 10 years. Who pays for the support systems and the e-readers? I am currently involved in a local battle to upgrade our high schools. Can you send me some of the sources for your article. I want to use them in the discussion.

  6. Jimmy - the other change I see in higher education is in digital learning material. College text books are still a huge expense for a college student and seems to be out of touch with today's technology

  7. While I don't share your optimism that the US Dept of Education can sort ANYTHING out let alone something so important and likely to draw in the special interest sharks, I am completely excited for the potential that technology brings to raising the educational bar in this country. Perhaps the Microsofts and Googles et al could band together and outfit our poorest schools to give them a badly needed leg up.

  8. Hi Jim,

    There's another new technology that's starting to take on greater use in schools and that is smartboards - interactive whiteboards where teachers can display various media content using touch gestures similar to tablets and smartphones.

    My oldest daughter starts high school this month and we saw at the open house these tools in action. Definitely a great tool to tie in how students now use the internet to research for projects.

    Of course, how much infiltration such technology gets in education depends on how much we as a society are willing to invest in it. With many countries now facing growing debts and austerity measures, I don't think it's going to happen in most countries just yet.

    Unfortunately, education is still not seen as a necessity for a country's future growth and instead is viewed as more something to divide the haves from the have-nots.

  9. Interesting feedback. Thank you everyone. I too believe there is no substitution for the daily face to face interaction in a classroom, but do see the value of utilizing technology if properly channeled to ehnance engagement and collaboration during and between classes. However, I do like the point that technology should be there for everyone so we do not create a gap between the haves and have-nots.

  10. On the topic of digital learning materials, a high school here in Clearwater began giving Kindles to students pre-loaded with their text books. This program started last year, and other school districts across the country have been talking to them about how to implement such a program in their own schools.

  11. In addition to the debate about how to use technology to motivate a higher eduacational standard, let's not forget that we're training young people to take their place in the workforce. My business uses technology to deliver the latest and most effective marketing approaches. i cannot conceive of hiring a young person who is not extremely knowledgeable about using technolgy to research, strategize and implement client projects. Technology in the classroom is not an option. As long as they're being directed in what's appropriate under various circumstances, a student's time on social media could be preparing them for a slot on my team.

  12. Jimmy,

    See this related article from Wharton Magazine: