From Link Trainers in World War II to complex simulations for pilot and space shuttle training programs, we have seen technology used for more and more learning experiences. Don Bitzer, in designing PLATO, envisioned a defined set of skills and knowledge to be learned. Entry-level learners could be tested to determine their current abilities and then learning materials could be assigned to have them reach the desired level of achievement. Constant feedback monitoring the learners’ achievements until they reach the desired skill and knowledge level is a major element of his system.
For more than forty years “Sesame Street” has shown that television can teach millions of children around the world basic skills. “The Voyages of the Mimi” demonstrated the power of multiple media in teaching science. This program used television coordinated with computers and books to teach basic elementary science. Bioblast is an example of a compelling learning experience based technology program. The New Frontier program demonstrated the power of social media.
Bits and pieces of many programs have demonstrated, time and again, the effectiveness of technology-based learning programs. Some large programs have been demonstrated in various school systems. Critical today is a learning management system that tracks students as they progress through their individualized learning programs and gives both the students and the teacher feedback with respect to their progress.
Feedback, in these cases, must be almost immediate and relevant.
The teacher in such a system is less a “sage on a stage” and more of a tutor, mentor and coach that guides the learner through his or her learning experiences. School facilities provide laboratories where teams of students can produce relevant products in their learning experiences.
With current technology, content learning can be done at home, in the classroom, or in the community. It is available 24/7, every day of the year, to all learners.
The digital world is changing our model of schools and learning. I have long dreamed of a history lesson on the founding of our Constitution where the learner could call upon Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin to express their views. Such five to fifteen minute reenactments are possible in today’s technology world.
Assessment feedback is immediate. Every time a test is taken, the learner gets immediate feedback: “George, on your test today you answered 8 of the 10 questions correctly. On question number 2 the correct answer was 1000 cps and you answered 2000 cps. On question number 10 the correct answer was Alexander Graham Bell and you answered Thomas Edison. Edison was interested in recordings and even movies, but Bell invented the telephone. Your grade on today’s test will be a part of your portfolio.”
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