Imagine doing your algebra in the form of a computer simulated game! If it had to happen it had to happen in America first. Technology has finally permeated to American classrooms in a big way.
In what is a precursor to the uninevitable future, online courses, kiddy laptops, IM and of course virtual teachers have taken admission into these 'new age' classrooms. There's 11 year old Jemella Chambers. Among the 650 students in a State funded Boston school, she logs on to her Apple Laptop and finishes her math assignments. And to those who may find it mundane, Jemella's math's assignment takes the form of animated interactive software. 11-year-old Jemella Chambers had this to say
“It’s comfortable. This makes me learn better. It's like playing a game."
Debra Socia, principal of the school in Dorchester, a tough Boston district prone to crime and poor schools opined,
"Why would we ever buy a book when we can buy a computer? Textbooks are often obsolete before they are even printed."
And she added,
"It's a powerful, powerful experience. Any family can chat online with teacher and say 'hey, we're having this problem'."
Students receive laptops at the start of each day, returning them at the end. Students and teachers maintain blogs. Staff and parents chat on instant messaging software. Assignments though have to be submitted on time as usual; only they are dropped into specially designated 'electronic drop boxes'.
And here's a vote for Google. The kids use Google Inc's free applications like Google Docs, or Apple's iMovie and specialized educational software like FASTT Math.
The experiment was started in Debra's school, Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School two years ago. It cost the exchequer $2Million. But it seems to have been worth every dime. Average attendance climbed up, disciplinary problems dipped, and the parent teacher interaction (of the positive kind) increased and most importantly the fun was back in academics.
In another facet underscoring the flexibility of computer aided education, the experiment has shown that children with special needs can be taught alongside their more advantaged peers because computers allows the content of the lessons to be tailored according to the needs of the individual.
This is the future and it might be soon coming to a school near you. Who knows, all of us might feel like enrolling again and this time not just to re-capture our 'wonder years'.