Technology in Education: Student-Centered Learning

How much technology was in your classroom when you were in school? How much is in your children’s classrooms? How much do you think will be in their children’s classrooms?

Look at three big reasons why technology holds so much potential in education:

  • Because it can. Any clear-thinking educator looks at a technology innovation — be it a chalkboard or an Oculus Rift — and tries to find an economical way to work it into the lesson plan.
  • Because it helps the greatly outnumbered teacher. What other profession puts a single salesperson in front of two or three dozen customers at once and expects success? Technology can help the teacher connect with more students at the same time. On an individual basis, it can keep students more deeply engaged.
  • Because school needs to keep up with life. Students are searching the web for just about everything and building their own online presence outside of the classroom. The closer education stays to that digital path of inquiry, the more relevant it remains.

The grown-ups, of course, control the budget. They decide how much and which types of technology get into the classroom and, more important, which types will actually get used.

Then, once the technology is in place, IT takes over and controls the network, the throughput, the apps on the devices and even the content students can access. That’s just prudent.

What about the students?

When technology is about budget, control and access, there’s not much room left for input from the students. That’s a lot like building a product without finding out what the market wants.

Technology has always had the potential to support learning, but technology alone is not the answer, especially not when students of all ages are accustomed to personalizing everything from their Tumblr to their playlists.

The technology may meet the needs of administrators, educators, IT, parents and future employers, but what about the perspective of the students? At what point do the needs of the students play a role in technology decisions?

Having spent more than 20 years at the crossroads of education and technology, we at Dell can summarize the lessons we’ve learned in a simple maxim:

For technology to succeed in the classroom, the conversation must start around student-centered learning, then move to hardware and software.

In an environment of student-centered learning, students are more engaged in the learning process. The use of technology in instruction is tailored toward the individual student’s passions, pace and learning style. Stronger engagement results in improved student outcomes.

We’ve put together an e-book called Aligning the Learning Model with the IT Model. It takes the concept of student-centered learning and applies it to systems management and systems deployment in the form of KACE appliances for education.

Next week, I’ll go into more detail from the e-book, including the ways in which education and technology together change the roles of teachers, IT and students. Meanwhile, read the e-book for three case studies and more details on the problem of aligning learning with IT in both K-12 and higher education.