What will determine our future success in the economic and social fields is not so much the vision of political leaders on the use of technology but the ability of our educators to make technology in the classroom an enabler for achievement in most aspects of our lives.

The most significant advantage that advances in technology have brought about is the promotion of independent learning in students. The internet has changed the way students access information necessary for their education. With proper training to identify the more reliable sources of information, most students will no longer depend on often outdated textbooks to glean the information they need.

Online learning does have its disadvantages. While offering opportunities to students who cannot afford full-time training, distance learning deprives trainees of personal interaction with fellow students and educators. Educational research shows that those who enrol in online courses have higher chances of failing and dropping out of classes.

The development of soft skills that has become an essential part of education in all spheres of study is best achieved in a classroom where face-to-face interaction between teacher and student provides a more personal experience.

One big advantage of exposing students to technology in the early years of schooling is that most jobs in the future will be digital and the sooner young people master digital skills, the easier it will be for them to secure meaningful jobs.

Educational research shows that those who enrol in online courses have higher chances of failing and dropping out of classes

Even manual jobs in the car maintenance industry are today dependent on the use of digital equipment. How often have we heard of car mechanics with decades of experience who complain that today they feel lost as most cars depend on various computer applications to function? Today’s and tomorrow’s car mechanics will need to be familiar and conversant with the use of digital equipment to do their jobs well.

The use of technology in the classroom can also help teachers make their lessons more interesting. Various studies on truancy confirm that most students skip lessons because they find some teachers’ method of imparting knowledge boring. Today the tools exist to make teaching methods interesting through the use of podcasts, blogs and social media in the classroom.

Of course, the use of laptops and tablets in classrooms has so far produced mixed results. Educators will tell you that some students will use their tablets to kill time in class while they pretend to be following the lesson. The use of computer equipment in class will necessitate a higher degree of vigilance on the part of teachers.

With teachers already under significant stress as a result of inadequate school management, it is crucially important to help educators who have been using traditional methods of teaching all their lives to retrain and be able to show that they are at ease with using technology. It is a sad reality that educators like health workers are often taken for granted by the community. They are not adequately respected for their contribution to the well-being of society and are often underpaid and poorly managed by school administrators.

It is ironic that while today all students have access to information that no previous generation ever dreamt of having, they have lost basic skills in good communication and numeracy. Gone are the days when most school-leavers could write an essay without spelling mistakes and with the correct syntax.

Young people today struggle to make themselves understood when writing because they no longer read as many good books as they should. The use of social media has enormous advantages, but it may have destroyed the ability of some young people to articulate their ideas in a way that is clear to all.

The first step that needs to be taken to make the use of technology in the classroom a useful strategic tool is to motivate educators to embrace these tools without adding extra weight to their workload. We spend more money on education than most EU countries, but our achievement records are not impressive. Part of the problem is that the teaching profession is not valued enough. Many who choose to teach as a career do so for the wrong reasons. Students will often be the victims of these wrong choices.

We need to attract the best graduates in the different areas of study, ensure that they have the right motivation to train others, and pay them as much if not more than other industries to bring the best out of our young people.

johncassarwhite@yahoo.com

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