Technology improving education: New platforms needed

I’ve spent the last couple of days in D.C. learning about technology in higher education at the annual Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference. It has been mind blowing. In a good way. At first, I felt really out of my element since my normal work conferences consist of fraternizing with social psychologists. However, I have quickly stepped into this spot with an excited appetite. And I AM ENERGIZED!

This morning, I attended a session given by Diana Rhoten of Startl, a company devoted to helping jumpstart technological education platforms and companies. Diana discussed the growing concern of America’s schools systems as we rapidly fall behind other countries in academic achievement and performance. With references to the popular film, Waiting for Superman, she advocated giving power to the “superheroes” who are using technology effectively to rethink education.

I will quickly drive home to the main point she made that I loved: we need to completely rethink education in order to use technology to improve education effectively. It’s not enough to take old methods and then put them online. Rather, we need to rethink how learning and education work within a technological platform. In short, we need to think of technology as the medium to improve education. However, this will never happen if we don’t encounter technology as what it is: something completely different than what we’ve seen or used before. We’re talking gaming modes of learning, augmented realities, and crowdsourced interfaces.

I could keep talking about this, but I’d rather show you. Here are a few GREAT examples of companies engaging in creative, emerging technologies which help improve learning. These types of ideas, if adopted on a wide scale across disciplines, have the ability to completely change education as it is (failing) today. Comment about your thoughts on these creations! I’m curious to hear them!

1. Project Noah – a tool for collecting field data about the environment, mapping various organisms and habitats, and interacting with your local environment. The nerd scientist in me LOVES this innovation.

2. Mind snacks – mobile learning games that utilize game play to help individuals LEARN. Currently, their platform is for learning Spanish, but other games are expected to come out soon. You can learn Spanish in a fun, engaging environment on the go by downloading these mobile apps to your iPhone or other mobile device.

3. Games for change – this is a website that has a collection of games that teach students by engaging them in role playing games. For instance, you can teach students about the difficulties of poverty by having them live impoverished individuals’ lives! Everything from learning how to survive as an impoverished farmer, to living life as a refugee, or as an impoverished person in Haiti. Other games include (but are definitely not limited to): learning how to budget, experiencing the power and limitations of the three branches of the U.S. government, to, one of my favorites, Breakthroughs to cures: “Breakthroughs to Cures is an online idea-generating game set in a future where a neurological disease is expected to affect over 100 million Americans. The sci-fi scenario is used as a backdrop to encourage players to figure out how to improve the current medical research system and develop new ideas to share with the medical community at large.” Another favorite of mine is Evoke: “Evoke is a 10 week long, online and real world game (played between March 3rd, 2010 to May 12th, 2010). Told through a comic book-like narrative, players were given new missions every week and were encouraged to use ‘powers’ such as collaboration, courage and resourcefulness to solve the most urgent social problems of our day. The game was played globally, with a focus on encouraging young adults in Africa to participate.”

Wow. Education is cool. Come on, people. Let’s get with it.

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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