Education is defined as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” Education cannot be confined in a traditional classroom setting and still meet the needs of students. The world is developing and incorporating technology in all aspects of life. The education system must accept this and embed technological literacy not as an “add-on”, but as a means to acquire and demonstrate knowledge.
Technology is everywhere. Students must develop the requisite skills that will allow them to embed a variety of technology tools seamlessly into their academic, personal, and professional lives. Educational technology develops students’ skills in all facets of their lives: as students, educators, parents, and contributing members of the global workforce. As access to technology becomes ubiquitous, educators need to assist students to become wise consumers of technology. According to the definition from the Research Center for Educational Technology (2006), true ubiquitous computing overcomes the digital divide and creates a culture where students and educators work together and “critically analyze information, create new knowledge in a variety of ways (both collaboratively and individually), communicate what they have learned , and choose which tools are appropriate for a particular task.”
Today’s youth spend more time, on the average, using entertainment technology than an adult does working. Teens are technological multi-taskers, spending approximately 21 hours a week, outside of school, using computers (Kaiser Family Foundation 2010). Investing this time in developing and honing relevant technology skills to assist students in academics and prepare them for their future professional lives would have a phenomenal impact on society. Students need to be college and career ready upon graduation, possessing “The New Basic Skills” (Murnane and Levy, 1996). These new basic skills overlap the essential 21 century skills, which are learning to collaborate with others and connecting through technology in a knowledge-based economy (Blinkley et al., 2012). Such skills are a must for all, not just for “techies.”
Technology must be an enhancement to education, not a substitute for tasks previously done with pen and paper (Bowman 2004). We need to move beyond having students simply use word processing and presentation software, along with the Internet to create reports. Effective use of technology in content areas, while adhering to required standards, creates micro-worlds that foster collaboration and communication, with transference of these skills to the work-place. To make the intertwining of technology and task completion truly seamless, the hours spent in the home using technology in a informal manner need to be an extension of the formal learning in the classroom and workplace (Fitzpatrick and Stringer, 2007).
The classrooms of today and tomorrow need more than just pen and paper. The world is ever changing, and the educational system needs to keep up with the growing demands of a technology-infused global economy. Students must graduate with not only the academic skills to be college or career ready, but possess technology skills that are demanded by higher education and employers. Educators need to take advantage of the students’ use of technology outside of the classroom and channel their enthusiasm into developing technology literacy with a deeper understanding of academic concepts.