28 July 2017
Technology is increasingly being employed in education. This is probably most apparent in the physical sciences and in mathematics, where computer software is used to render 3D visual effects to illustrate scientific and mathematical concepts, new sophisticated tools have revolutionized the way students learn science, and rapid advances in communication technology such as personal digital assistants and smartphones have increased the level of contact and enhanced communication between students and educators, and between students themselves, in order to improve the learning experience.
Traditional paper textbooks with printed words will remain relevant as no technology can replace them. Nonetheless, the use of digital media and digital textbooks in particular is on the rise. Digital textbooks are more than the electronic soft copies of printed textbooks. They have the potential to offer students a learning experience that paper textbooks cannot, by delivering content using illustrative videos, animations or 360-degrees visual images. They also provide interactive formats, like enabling students to search for relevant information or data when required, and putting huge online encyclopedias and dictionaries instantly at the students’ disposal. They also allow students to interact with each other and share learning experiences, as well as exchange ideas and information.
It is therefore imperative that both teachers and parents in Singapore learn to exploit the versatility of digital textbooks and digital media in general to enhance the learning process. Using appropriate technology coupled with an internet connection, students from a young age can search for information themselves and organize their work better using the tools at their disposals. Thus they not only benefit from the enhanced learning that technology has enabled, they also learn valuable skills and traits like being independent, self-directed learners.
Through bite-sized, self-accessed quizzes embedded in digital textbooks, students can also check their understanding in a safe environment, to discover and build on their areas of mastery and focus on subjects for improvement. Digital textbooks ensure that the information contained within is relevant to students and kept current, through the use of updated real-life examples. These can be far more engaging and resonant than paper textbooks, with knowledge and practical applications gleaned better remembered.
The onus and the challenge is now on educators to adapt and be able to utilize new technologies such as digital media and digital textbooks to the maximum extent possible. Educator have to play a key role in shaping learning outcomes, making sure that students are able to differentiate between truthful content and less honest content that may comprise propaganda, deliberate falsehoods, poorly researched materials, or sloppy writing. It is imperative that with the wealth of information at their fingertips, students learn to different between honest news and fake news, between dispassionate, factual reporting, and sensational, exaggerated reporting. This is an area where technology itself cannot replace the valuable role played by the educator.