Digitizing Education: National Geographic at The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum

As part of its “Intelligence Series” of conferences, the Atlantic Monthly, one of the nation’s longest-running publications, held a forum on Tuesday to discuss the future of technology in education. Hosted at the Gallup Building in Washington, D.C., the Atlantic convened nonprofit, industry, and government representatives for the day to exchange thoughts on the role of educational technology in preparing students for employment in high-tech sectors, as well as more narrow topics, such as game-based education.

Four representatives from National Geographic Education attended the event, adding thoughtful commentary and analysis to the discussion, which I will share with you in this post. NG Education staff noted various main takeaways from the day, including, but not limited to, individualized educational experiences, teacher training, the digital divide/app gap, edutainment, and use of appropriate platforms.

Individualized Educational Experiences
Technology presents an opportunity to create individualized educational experiences, bringing a 30:1 student-to-teacher ratio as close as possible to individual tutoring. By using the latest technology, teachers can differentiate between advanced students and slower-paced learners in their classes, assigning them different exercises based on their skill level. Students are challenged with educational programs that target their specific weaknesses (i.e. targeting verb conjugation with one student, while focusing on noun practice with another).

Despite a dearth of actual teachers at the conference to advocate on their own behalf, the
panelists identified a need for increased teacher training in the use
of new technologies.  Even young teachers who have recently graduated from
university struggle with some of the more recent classroom
technologies, such as smartphone and tablet applications. The
vagueness lies in who is responsible for the training: schools or
industry?  Rest assured, however, that very few people actually believe
teachers will ever be replaced by technology. In a recent Gallup poll,
more Americans would prefer their child be educated by a “less effective
teacher, in person” than a “more effective teacher, online,” according
to Shane Lopez, lead researcher for the study.

Of the three panel discussions held at the conference, two focused
specifically on the use of gaming as an educational tool. “Edutainment,”
as industry and educational representatives call it, uses the engaging
(and sometimes addicting) nature of games, to teach. At the conference
itself, educational games were displayed in the lobby areas, with the
national winners of the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge all
represented. Later this week, we will discuss the use of these games in
geography education–and how these may be best employed in YOUR
classroom–here on the blog.

The “digital divide” created by differing levels of access to technology in education was the primary
critique throughout the conference.  Also
known as the “app gap,” the reality is that not all schools, teachers, and families enjoy equal opportunity to own and use the latest technology,
such as smartphones, broadband networks, updated software, or even
televisions. The means to allow access to these various platforms must
be addressed before the widespread implementation of technology into classrooms can be achieved.

Main critiques of the conference, from my perspective:
•    Very few, if any, teachers present.
•    Discussion too focused on STEM education, lacking in other topics such as geography and outdoor learning.
•    Negative effects of “too much” gaming?

Questions for discussion:
•    Should teachers be differentiating between their students and
creating individualized educational experiences?  Or should classrooms
attempt to have all students learning together, in unison?
•    Is technology actually improving educational outcomes?
•    What will be the effect of gaming and technology in the classroom
on students’ development of interpersonal skills for the workplace?
•    Will creativity in children be enhanced or diminished by technology?

Your responses to these discussion questions are welcome and appreciated,
as always. NG
Education is looking forward to continuing the discussion about the role
of technology in geography education, specifically. The complete conference proceedings may be viewed here: The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum 2012.

*This story would not have been possible without the valuable notes of
Ryan Schleeter (NGEP Intern Summer 2012) and comments from Cayla Buttram
(NGEP Intern Summer 2012).  Many thanks for their thoughtful
contributions to the discussion and analysis.  We, as interns, are also
grateful for the guidance of NG Education Instructional Designer Elizabeth Wolzak throughout the conference

–Justin Fisch for National Geographic Education

4 thoughts on “Digitizing Education: National Geographic at The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum

  1. Thank you Kit, please let us know what you think of our other posts as well! We are trying to inspire people to care about the planet!

  2. Thanks for the compliment. The changes in education have been fascinating, and it’ll be interesting to see where a lot of these end up.

  3. Thanks so much for this. This is awesome post I ever seen on internet. This is rare to find . Anyway, you are definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the good work. Keep on inspiring the people.

  4. Thanks for the information. Ive been doing some articles almost similar to this on my blog,Its good to get some inspiration from elsewhere once in a while.y8

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