With advancements in technology, education has naturally evolved to incorporate new technologies and advanced tools in the classroom. Especially within the past year, with the mass transition to distance learning, technology has become an integral part of modern education. The modern methods of teaching originated centuries ago, so it is more surprising that schools have not been drastically altered sooner. However, the current and sudden changes to the way students are taught and the changes in the curriculum due to the incorporation of advanced technologies give some insight into how exactly the school system can progress and improve with effective integration of technology into the classroom.
The Modern Education Model
The origin of the modern classroom dates back to the late 18th century when education was first funded and regulated by the state; this transition of the structure of education is known as the factory model. This model introduced the structure that places children of the same age into the same grade and allows them to move forward through grades as they successfully complete the curriculum.
Part of the factory model came to include the specialization of teachers so that students could benefit from being taught more thoroughly in a specific subject (Fryer Jr). Because of the requirements and parameters for teacher specialization, it can be more difficult to find a teacher who is both significantly more knowledgeable than their cohort and also effective in managing a classroom on a disciplinary level. This means that although some schools may try to effectively specialize teachers, the effect is insignificant because of the ultimate decrease in student achievement. Therefore, the factory model does not provide well for anything beyond the basic structure of schools and division of curriculum among grade levels.
A New Education Model
An alternative proposition to the structure of education is the inquiry model which is an updated version of the factory model that teaches students to think critically in a more diverse and constructive environment rather than a strictly uniform and text-based environment (Leland). While the factory model prepared students to simply become functioning members of society as different types of laborers, the inquiry model allows students to explore their strengths and interests in relation to relevant positions in society, specifically the broad spectrum of roles in information and technology. There is still the issue of how the education system can successfully and effectively transition from the factory model to the inquiry model because, without a thorough transition, the expected progress cannot be made.
The Insights from COVID-19 Distance Learning
The pandemic has given educators a brief look at how students can perform under the inquiry model as the move to distance and online learning gave students great independence in their studies. The basis of distance learning is being proficient with the use of computers as the manner of accessing all necessary information. However, as students are not the only user group in the field of education, teachers must also successfully navigate advanced technology in order to provide an effective experience for students.
One study showed that educational chatbots are a modern and relevant way to improve the role of the teacher as they help increase efficiency in instruction, maximize class time, and also offer a more personalized experience for each student (Chocarro). Although this study yielded very positive results with the integration of chatbots into the online classroom, there is still the obstacle of encouraging the use of such programs in the classroom as teachers who are unfamiliar with advanced technology may be reluctant to learn how to use chatbots to improve their instruction..
Another important aspect of online learning is the presence of structure as teachers have to balance their applied knowledge and the perceived understanding from students in an online environment (Lauret). Research conducted on the structure of the sudden transition to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that although online education can provide a rich experience for students, they still need a structure for a more comfortable transition to a drastically new method of learning. Especially because of the sudden transition, the structure was found to be even more necessary than usual to combat the disruptions that come with distance learning. Ultimately, it was found that structure is needed in general regardless of the learning environment for students to be and feel successful.
A Long Transition
While studies on the effects of advanced technology on education have shown that technology can immensely improve the transition to a new and more effective education system, there are still important factors of the old factory model to consider. The most important common denominator between any education model is the presence of structure so that students can be comfortable in learning and inquiring. Effectively transitioning to an inquiry model will only benefit the education system, but it may be a long and difficult road to doing so.
Chocarro, Raquel, Mónica Cortiñas, and Gustavo Marcos-Matás. “Teachers’ attitudes towards chatbots in education: a technology acceptance model approach considering the effect of social language, bot proactiveness, and users’ characteristics.” Educational Studies (2021): 1-19.
Fryer Jr, Roland G. “The” pupil” factory: Specialization and the production of human capital in schools.” American Economic Review 108.3 (2018): 616-56.
Lauret, Dirk, and Durdane Bayram-Jacobs. “COVID-19 Lockdown Education: The Importance of Structure in a Suddenly Changed Learning Environment.” Education Sciences 11.5 (2021): 221.