Life & Style | Education

Technology: an indispensable educational tool

To have our tiny tots comfortable with internet surfing, gadgets and gizmos at schools is a necessary part of school education now

  • By Royston Soares
  • Published: 07:00 August 11, 2013
  • Gulf News

Royston Soares
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Royston Soares is the principal of Gems Westminster School- Ras Al Khaimah.

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” – David Warlick.

Times have changed and our lives are intertwined with technology in ways we never thought possible even a decade ago. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine recently. He is an older man with grandchildren in primary school. He mentioned to me that his youngest granddaughter, eight, asked for an iPhone for her birthday this year.

He told me how surprised he was; he thought his granddaughter would want a new Barbie or some other toy, not an iPhone. We went on to talk about how when we were young, we didn’t have those types of gadgets and it’s his feeling that kids shouldn’t have those things today. He feels that they’re for adults. But these days, it’s pretty common for children of any age to have an iPhone, an iPad, and an iPod, or some form of technical gizmo.

Well, let’s face it. Today, because of the rapid improvements in technology what we have available to us is here to stay. But with this dependency on technology now evident in younger generations, it is no wonder that parents anxiously debate questions like — How much technology is too much?; isn’t my child too young to be using that?; Just how beneficial is technology in the classrooms? 

An empowering tool

When used properly, technology in the classroom can be a useful tool for improving academic outcomes for children of all ages and GEMS Schools provide learning environments that embrace technology as an important part of the educational learning and teaching.

Research has shown that when used correctly computers and other forms of interactive technology, can play an important role in developing the brain of toddlers. One example of this is the multi-touch screen table tops (digi tables) that are in use at Little GEMS International preschools. These resources are helping young children develop their curiosity, problem solving and independent thinking skills.

Then as children grow into their primary and secondary school years, one of the most promising approaches to digitally-aided instruction is the concept of ‘blended learning’. This technology friendly approach has class time split, where there is traditional teaching and instruction and then the rest of the time is spent in self-guided learning, using computers or tablets.

But as Bill Gate has rightly said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.”

Technology is used as a tool to appeal to all learning styles and levels. It is used to create innovative teaching and learning opportunities, that not only satisfy the different learning styles of students, but it also allows for exciting new lessons that ensures the students remain interested. 

Is there technological overexposure?

While the benefits of technology are in great number, we cannot deny that negatives exist.

At GEMS Westminster School — Ras Al Khaimah, one of our active goals will be to provide our parents with the understanding and tools to help their children be smart, safe and responsible users of technology.

Through the Parent Engagement initiatives offered across all our schools, parents can learn about the basics but can also learn about things that go way beyond just Internet safety. There will be a focus on the things we are shifting to like: blended learning, digital pedagogy, tech integration, digital citizenship, practical tips for parents to support learning at home, plagiarism and ethics, etc.

It would be great for parents to know about their child’s assignments, tests and ongoing projects and the way things are moving forward, a lot of this will have to be done through some form of technology. My best advice would be to set aside time each day to offer help, or to use technology together in some way, and this should go beyond just watching TV together. Be available and enthusiastic; your child needs to feel like you want to be there and understand what they are doing. 

Keeping in step with the times

As a parent, you may rely upon your different devices to track your finances, get your news, or email your friends and colleagues. Perhaps you do not remember how you ever got by without your computer. It is important you remember that these high-tech tools are just as important for your child.

While it is true that the Internet provides access to questionable video games or other inappropriate content, it is also a gateway to quality educational resources, learning-enhancing games and homework help. There is an abundance of information at a child’s fingertips that was formerly only accessible through a library.

Well, times have changed and will keep changing and we need to evolve with the needs and technology of this age and time. Somehow technology seems to come so easily to our young minds, but like in the case of chocolate or ice cream, moderation and responsible consumption is the key, isn’t it?

Royston Soares is the principal of Gems Westminster School- Ras Al Khaimah

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