Monthly Archives: July 2010

IT and the Future

by Pegi Flynt

What will technology and curriculum integration in the next 10 years look like? Teachers have traditionally shared knowledge by lecturing or demonstrating. They have pointed learners to the appropriate resources to access knowledge and have masterfully generated tests to determine if students have learned. Students have traditionally shown competency by passing tests, but these same students are not always good at defending a position or evaluating the credibility of sources. According to Knudson (1991) direct instruction is not effective in developing argumentation skills in students. Advances in technology and the widening availability of information through the Internet point to the death of direct instruction and the time-honored lecture as effective teaching strategies. The knowledge explosion, combined with ease of access means that students have knowledge at their fingertips and can access this knowledge on their cell phones. During tests, one student can text an answer across the room to another student. Soon, spitting back knowledge will no longer be an effective form of assessment.

More than ever before, students must be able to evaluate the credibility of evidence in order to succeed (Kuhn, 2005; Lipman, 1991). As society becomes more sophisticated, so will the problems the members of society must solve. The recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is an example of an environmental problem created by the demands of a complex society. For months now, bright minds across the world have failed to find a solution. Cifuentes, Sharp, Bulu, Benz, and Stough (2010) share that learning is based on activity and activity results from need.

In the ever-changing and complex world we live in, “intelligence is accomplished rather than possessed” (Pea, 1997, p. 50). How can teachers possibly possess the knowledge needed to help students know how to solve the complex problems of the future? Instead, teachers must aid students in knowing how to approach problem solving, how to elicit their best in creativity and how to develop critical thinking skills and dispositions. Learning in the future will be more about ethics, care of the Earth, global relationships, and how to function as digital citizens. Distributed cognition, proposed by Salomon (1994), holds that “knowledge is socially constructed, through collaborative efforts toward shared objectives” (Pea, 1997, p. 48). It will become more and more important that citizens be able to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and credibility of varying positions, points of view, and suggested solutions to problems. Since knowledge is everywhere assessment MUST change from factually based recall to evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Digital tools, facilitated by the Internet, allow for a high level of connection and collaboration. According to Marttunen and Laurinen (2001), digital communications tend to be more structured and well-grounded while face-to-face discussions tended to be more “incoherent and included a lot of different opinions, short responses and arguments whose rationale was somewhat obscure” (p. 129). Hand-held technologies can be used to foster collaboration across distances and within classrooms.

I recently attended a conference where 2500 participants all utilized individual remote devices to respond to opinion questions and critical thinking prompts. Responses were instantly displayed on a screen for all to see. Roschelle, Rafanan, Bhanot, Estrella, Penuel, Nussbaum, et al. (2010) discuss a software that uses individual hand held devices where students solve math problems, enter their answers and then the device reveals the results for the group. If all answers agree students move on to the next problem, if not, the screens say “You do not all agree. Please try again.” This type of immediate feedback has potential for procedural type knowledge, practice and skill. More information can be found at

For me, the iPad has become an essential tool, and I have enjoyed the ease with which the haptic (touch based) environment makes using and finding information fast and enjoyable. The Horizon Report (2010) hints that other haptic tools may soon be a reality. For instance, the Microsoft Surface functions as a large, interactive screen where, with the touch of a finger, patrons can search through menu items at a restaurant and then order directly from the screen This type of device is already available. The University of Nevada is using the Microsoft Surface as a tool to help students learn anatomy by manipulating diagrams. Check it out at

Interactive, touch environments may lead to new types of learning and teaching activities. In the next 10 years, classrooms may have large tables or entire walls where learners will collaborate intuitively with content using simple touch. Sixth sense is a digital tool that allows the user to easily interact with their physical environment. The idea can be explored at

Pranav Mistry, from MIT, proposes that a digital device ( such as a computer or an iPhone) is actually a gap between the physical world and the digital world. His goal is to eliminate unnecessary devices so that interaction and connection with the digital world is much more intuitive. It is pretty amazing stuff and well worth a look

Indeed, technology is creating a new world and I will be most interested to see what the future holds.


Belland, B. (2010). Portraits of middle school students constructing evidence-based arguments during problem-based learning: The impact of computer-based scaffolds.Educational Technology Research & Development, 58(3), 285-309. doi:10.1007/s11423-009- 9139-4.

Cifuentes, L., Sharp, A., Bulu, S., Benz, M., & Stough, L. (2010). Developing a Web 2.0- based system with user-authored content for community use and teacher education.Educational Technology Research & Development, 58(4), 377-398. doi:10.1007/s11423-009- 9141-x.

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved July 10, 2010 from

Knudson, R. E. (1991). Effects of instructional strategies, grade, and sex on students’ persuasive writing. Journal of Experimental Education, 59(2), 141-152.

Kuhn, D. (2005). Education for thinking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in education. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Marttunen, M., & Laurinen, L. (2001). Learning of argumentation skills in networked and face-to-face environments. Instructional Science, 29(2), 127-153.

Pea, R. D. (1997). Distributed intelligence and designs for education. In Salomon (Ed.),Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations. Campbridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Roschelle, J., Rafanan, K., Bhanot, R., Estrella, G., Penuel, B., Nussbaum, M., et al. (2010). Scaffolding group explanation and feedback with handheld technology: Impact on students’ mathematics learning. Educational Technology Research & Development, 58(4), 399-419.

Salomon, G. (1994). Distributed cognition: Psychological and educational considerations.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.