WILKES-BARRE – Most people are introduced to the world of technology long before they enter kindergarten.
Dr. Michael Speziale, dean of the School of Education and dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies at Wilkes University, said children entering the first day of school come in "techready."
"Most of them have already been using mobile devices like iPads, laptop computers, video games and others," Speziale said. "In essence they are what we call digital natives. They come to school not only ready, but expecting to use technology."
But as "tech ready" as those young students are, Speziale says schools generally have been slow, if not resistant to this major change in education.
"I read a comment from an educator in Australia who said, ‘Sometimes school is like a flight from Melbourne to Sydney. You sit in your seat and turn off your electronic devices.' We tell our students they can't use these devices, but the fact is students need to use them to learn."
Speziale said students have great tools at their disposal, but the education community has not yet learned how to capitalize on the many benefits they have to education.
To put it in perspective, Speziale said Apple Computer, Inc., recently announced it passed the 1 billion mark for applications sold – many of them being educational tools.
"The point is all of this is available and much of it is free and educational," Speziale said. "As educators we can no longer ignore it."
He said in Pennsylvania, millions of dollars have been allocated to make "classrooms of the future." The funding is used to buy equipment and to train teachers how to use it. Speziale said the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do.
In the United Kingdom, for example, Speziale said he learned during a recent visit to London that there is a heavy emphasis there on the use of technology in the education system.
"The reality is that technology is not introduced to students when they get to school; it's introduced to them long before they get to school. Now we need to develop that in our educational system."
According to a recent U.S. Department of Education-funded study, the use of technology resulted in educational gains for all students regardless of age, race, parental income, or other characteristics. A second study - a 10-year study supported by Apple Computer, Inc., - concluded that students provided with technology-rich learning environments "continued to perform well on standardized tests but were also developing a variety of competencies not usually measured." The study found students "explored and represented information dynamically and in many form, became socially aware and more confident, communicated effectively about complex processe, became independent learners and self-starters, knew their areas of expertise and shared that expertise spontaneously."
Other successes in the Department of Education study were rising scores on state tests, improved student attendance, increased student comprehension, motivation, attitude, strong study, parent and teacher support, improved student retention and improved placement in jobs.