Although we may be eager to discard 2011, we should take a few moments to reflect on the technology breakthroughs that enabled us to begin 2012 in such a favorable position. Compared with previous decades, the advancements in the field of education technology last year alone are astronomical. These advancements can be attributed to the revolutionary people, ideas and corporations that have helped make this world a better place by daring to dream and constantly push limits. To recognize and honor the achievements we've made thus far, let's celebrate 2011 with a full review of the most notable milestones.
The legacy of Steve Jobs
If there is just one thing that Steve Jobs accomplished in his lifetime, it was reinforcing our belief in the idea that one man truly can change the world. His untimely passing in October reminded us that although man is mortal, innovation is not. The innovation and creativity Jobs brought to technology and, specifically to education, will create a foundation for the future of technological advancement as we know it. Jobs primarily was responsible for the integration of technology into schools by encouraging the use of computers, iPads and other devices to improve teacher-student communication and student engagement in the classroom. The influence of Apple products is still evident in multiple educational settings across the country.
The iPad's ever-growing influence
From its introduction in January of 2010 to September of the same year, iPad sales reached a total of 7.2 billion --a figure that exceeded the popular Mac laptop computers in the same fiscal quarter. Although these sales can be attributed to consumers of all types, a significant portion was derived from the growing use of the devices for educational purposes. According to NPR, more than 600 schools in the United States currently have at least one full classroom of students using iPads as part of the classroom curriculum.
Skype in the Classroom
Designed to introduce students to other parts of the world while improving communication at home, Skype in the Classroom gives both students and teachers the opportunity to expand their outreach and take advantage of hands-on resources to explore different cultures. The program is accessible to anyone with a web cam and a computer with an Internet connection. Teachers all over the world are now able to collaborate with other educators and introduce students to the languages and cultures of areas from San Francisco to Singapore.
Google+ came onto the scene with the promise of greater exclusivity than its competitors offer, but its value for education came as a secondary perk. The exclusivity factor of Google+ is what bridged the gap between appropriate and inappropriate student-teacher interaction online and after-hours. With the "Groups" feature of the website, teachers can categorize classes and designate announcements toward certain classes only. The helpful "Hangouts" feature also makes it easier for students to contact teachers with questions and concerns about homework assignments after school hours.
Challenging the SAT
Once unanimously regarded as an absolute measure of a student's academic capabilities, the SAT was held under particularly harsh scrutiny in 2011 with the growing trend of test-optional admissions among the nation's top colleges and the emergence of books like SAT Wars by Joseph Soares. In the book, Soares convincingly makes the case that socio-economic class has a much greater influence on SAT scores than a student's academic capabilities. Complete with multiple, extensive studies and commentary, the book is just the beginning of a revolution in thought on what truly measures student aptitude.
New studies crediting the efficacy of online education
Online education gives students the opportunity to further their education despite career obligations, family commitments and other schedule conflicts. Because these alternatives could lead to a better educated population, it's fortunate that new studies have emerged that lend credibility to the efficacy of these programs. An extensive study conducted by the Department of Education concluded that students in online conditions actually performed better, on average, when compared with students learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction. This newly released study indicates a positive outlook for online education in the coming year 2012, and hopefully a greater dissolution of prejudice against online degree programs.
U.S. Department of Education. (2010, September). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning. Retrieved January 6, 2012, from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf.
(2011, January 26). iPad Sales Data by US States: Statistics and Trends. Retrieved January 6, 2012, from http://www.onlinemarketing-trends.com/2011/01/ipad-sales-data-by-us-states-statistics.html.
Matthews, J. (2009, July 31). Class Struggle: What the SAT-Optional Colleges Don't Tell You. Retrieved January 6, 2012, from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/07/what_the_sat-optional_colleges.html.