Technology in the Classroom: An Analysis of Digital Age Education

Technology has revolutionized and changed the way we do just about everything these days, and whether you would consider these technological advancements improvements or not depends on your deposition and involvement with tech. With current and future generations growing up using and relying on tech to an increased extent, it’s important to investigate just how much more efficient our lives are with the presence of tech.

The education system has not been exempt from a technological overhaul, either. Though a growth in technological standards and practices has moved at a snail’s pace due to the generally low amount of funding usually allocated to education, the presence of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and full online universities are proof that our digital age is starting to really make an impact in education sectors.

What do you think? Will our grandchildren’s children be attending school virtually? Will future generations need to buy lap tops instead of text books? Check out the infographic below for a look at what technology is currently bringing to a college classroom near you.


Vera M. Reed is a writer, researcher and former educator who has recently become fascinated with the relationship between technology and education and enjoys creating content based around it. She is a frequent contributor for, where she writes on everything from Bachelor’s to doctoral degrees. She hopes you enjoy this graphic!

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Technology in the Classroom: An Analysis of Digital Age Education by Vera Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

February 18, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

Opening the Access to Scholarly Research

This guest post by Ken Ronkowitz was previously published in his blog, Serendipity35.

Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: Kevin Eng, CC BY-SA 2.0

I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle‘s Tech Therapy podcast on the “Moral Imperative” for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.

This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.

“Information is power,” Swartz wrote. “But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.”  He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.

His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.

David Parry calls sites like JSTOR “knowledge cartels.”

The term “open” and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as “the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.” There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.

There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.

Similarly, we use the term “open content” with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it.  Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).

You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). My blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.

The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.

Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.

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Opening the Access to Scholarly Research by Ken Ronkowitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online

This guest post by Michael Zimmer was previously published in his blog, The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness.

Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo: ISKME, CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the great aspects of the Internet, the Web 2.0 craze, and collaboration is the ability to find and share lesson plans through various methods.  Teachers all over the country are doing great things in their classroom and are making these great things available on the Internet for anyway to download.  Some are free, some might cost you a little cash, but in the end, why reinvent the wheel, especially when that wheel has experienced success?

1.) Share My Lesson is a source I have previously written about and provides lessons for all grade levels and subject matter.  There is even a special section for special education teachers.  Create an account and easily find lesson plans or start sharing some of your own.

2.) Google Apps for Education has a lesson plan search option where you can choose what you are looking for, the subject matter and the grade level.  The lesson plans often require the use of Google Apps, but can be modified if necessary for your classroom if you are not able to access Google Apps for Education.

3.) Teachers Pay Teachers is a site that allows users to upload and download lesson plans and other activities created by teachers for teachers.  The prices are often on the low end and there is also an abundance of free lesson plans and resources as well.  There are also complete units available, but those do come at a higher price.  Create an account and upload your own, then you can make money off of the successful lesson plans that you are doing in your classroom.

4.) Federal Resources for Educational Excellence is a lesson plan homepage created by the federal government that has lesson plans by subject matter and grade level.  The lessons are often broken down into subtopics as well that make it easier to find the lesson plans to meet a teachers need.

5.) Better Lesson is an option for finding lesson plans from a data base of over 300,000 resources.  You can search by grade level and subject matter and also view featured lessons for each day/week.  You can also upload your own lessons to share while also getting feedback from other educators on how to improve and build on a lesson.

6.) Claco is a newer option, formally Class Connect, that allows teachers to join what is basically a social network for teachers.  Through this social network, teachers can upload an share lessons and collaborate with other educators as they discuss improvements and successes of those lessons.  To join you must request an invite, but that is just to verify you are an educator and because they are currently in Beta.  I have heard good things about this site.

7.) Read Write Think has a large database of lesson plans that teachers can download and use in their classroom.  You can find lesson plans by grade level and subject matter and it provides the total number for each as well making it easy to know what you are getting into when looking for lesson plans.

8.) Microsoft in Education has a lesson plan and teacher resource database that teachers can look through by selecting age range, subject matter, and even length in time.  Several of the lessons involve the use of technology as well, but could most likely be adapted if necessary.  You might also be interested in the free products for educators that is offered by Microsoft.

9.) The HP Teacher Experience Exchange is another option for teachers looking for lesson plans.  At the same time, it also provides a place for teachers to collaborate and connect with other teachers.  There is currently a large database of lesson plans and resources for teachers to search through.  You can locate by grade level and subject matter as well.

10.) TeachHubScholastic, and Edutopia also provide great options for locating lesson plans.  Many of the lessons on these sites are teacher submitted as well.  Like the other options you can also search by grade level and subject matter.  All these sites also offer many other opportunities and resources that teachers would be interested in taking the time to examine and look through.

Hope that you find a lesson plan of good use.  If you decide to upload your own lesson plans, just remember honesty and copyright and ensure that you are not uploading a lesson that you created using information and activities from other resources you have been provided previously.

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10 Ways to Find and Share Lesson Plans Online by Michael Zimmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Self organised learning spaces

This guest post by Steve Wheeler was previously published in his blog, Learning with ‘e’s.

Photo: William Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0

“I never teach my students. I only provide them with the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

The social web is replete with self-organising spaces. Take Wikipedia for example. It is now the largest single repository of knowledge on the planet and continues to grow with over 4.2 million articles in English, and many more in other languages. Currently, 750 new pages are added each day on just about every topic known to humanity. It’s the first port of call for many web users when they wish to check a fact or statistic. Who creates and maintains this huge, ever expanding repository of knowledge? We do. You and I. Us and an army of similar minded volunteers who love learning, and want to share their knowledge. All Wikipedia has done to promote the vast ever expanding storehouse of knowledge, is to provide the environment within which it all takes place. And that should give all of use some clues as to how to facilitate self-organising learning spaces.

Self organised learning – where learners control their own pace and space or learning, and often decide on what content they wish to consume – is a growing force in education. From individual students learning informally by browsing on their handhelds, to small flipped classrooms, to vast groups of learners following a programme of study on massive online open courses (MOOCs), education is changing to become learner driven. Yet many academics and teachers struggle with the concept of self-organised learning. Often this is because it is something of an alien concept to them. When they were in school, college or university, they were probably required to attend lectures and classroom teaching sessions where they were expected to ‘receive knowledge’ and then go away and attempt to make sense of it in an essay, project or examination. Clearly, the temptation is to perpetuate this kind of didactic pedagogy approach when one is expected to teach. Many however, are breaking out of this mould, and are launching into new kinds of pedagogy which enable learners to take control, and where teachers are another resource to be called upon when needed.

Wikipedia facilitates knowledge generation, sharing, remixing and repurposing because it is an open, accessible space where everyone can participate. It may be error ridden, but these errors are usually addressed and content revised, deleted or extended accordingly, and often within a short space of time. Yes, there will be disputes, just as there are ‘edit wars‘ within Wikipedia, but hopefully, learners will also learn from this how to gain confidence in their own abilities, how to defend their positions and how to think critically. If this kind of learning occurs within a psychologically safe environment which is blame free, success can be achieved. Self-organised learning spaces should be similarly founded on psychologically safe principles, where if errors are made, those who made them can learn and adjust as they discover the ‘correct approach’ or the ‘right answer’.

Working within self-organised communities enables a vast amount of learning to take place, but it also allows for individual differences and personalities to flourish. Teachers who adopt the approach of facilitating self organised learning must be willing to allow learners to take their own directions and find their own levels. Exploration, experimentation, taking risks, asking ‘what if?’ questions and making errors, are all essential elements of self-organised learning. However, probably the most important component is the ability of the learners themselves to direct their own learning, and to be able to call upon the resources they need, when they need them. We can learn a lot from Wikipedia, and not just from the knowledge it contains.

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Self organised learning spaces by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I (Bill) have been active across the Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, since about 2008, and one of the minor missions of this blog is to help promote “free culture” as well as distributed, self-organizing educational projects. Everything which appears on this blog—both my posts and guest posts—are licensed under a Creative Commons license to better facilitate the pooling, remixing, and reuse of useful materials.

Combine open educational resources with a system of portable, persistent, and verifiable credentials a la Mozilla’s Open Badges project and you’ve really got something special. No longer does an individual need to be tied down to one specific instructor or institution—the best open educational resources and assessments can empower knowledge-seekers to broaden their skills in effective, verifiable ways. Teachers will always be important, of course, but the social justice/human empowerment angle appeals to me: if someone in rural sub-Saharan Africa can connect to the internet by bouncing signals between a cheap wind- or solar-charged Android handset and an internet blimp, they can join in this emerging global bazaar of knowledge and credentialing.

How’s that for self-organized learning spaces?

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