My advice to the Minister of Education (application)

Dear Torbjørn Røe Isaksen,

You’re probably thinking that I’m just another disgruntled student, upset about the 10% absence limit. Well, don’t get me wrong- I am disappointed about the policy; however, that’s not what I want to focus on in this blogpost.

School. I suppose this is a term to which you can relate and which has enormous meaning to you. Technology. Technology and school. Sound familiar? These words have a stronger relationship than one might expect.

On Friday the 28th of October, my English class joined our teacher at a conference held by NHO in Oslo, Norway. Ann Michaelsen spoke about teaching and education with a focus on technology, while others also shared their thoughts on the subject of school and learning. I have to admit that I left the building with a totally different perspective on the importance of ICT in schools.

Sandvika Videregående Skole, which is the high school I attend, places an enormous focus on using PCs in classes. Although there are undoubtedly flaws with the system that is currently in place, I believe that the pros certainly outweigh the cons and that the use of PCs and technology in the classroom serves to enhance our learning.

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Starting off with the benefits. Instead of carrying 2kg heavy paperbacks to school every day, we have the opportunity to use digital books in our learning. On the app we can make bookmarks, listen to the text aloud and write annotations to specific paragraphs. Computer in general make everything happen easier, faster and are more convenient. Getting quick feedback from the teacher or checking the work for plagiarism has never been easier!

Another central advantage of having PCs available in classrooms is the direct access they provide to social media, which also has the potential to enhance our learning when used effectively. I love using Twitter in our English classes. It is a wonderful way to communicate with the world without having to leave the room. These social media platforms provide me with the opportunity to have good communication with other students and the teacher, which makes the learning much quicker and more effective.

One of the most principal and influential ways of using the internet to learn is by writing a blog. Knowing that my posts will be out on the internet being read by many different people, only boosts my motivation to put in a lot of work when creating them. Reading other blogs inspires me and helps me to decide what I should include in my own posts.

Thanks to OneNote, taking notes in class has never been easier. We have many options for organizing our documents and those students with interactive screens have the opportunity to take notes by writing directly on the screen. In addition, PressReader is phenomenal for those interested in keeping up to date with the latest news. All the newspapers in one place- literal heaven for teachers! I love the idea myself because I can use the articles in so many convenient ways.

I could go on and on about the benefits of a digital classroom. The power contained in technology is enormous nowadays, why then exclude students from all the opportunities it carries? The world is gradually moving forward and so should the school systems.

However, we should at least be aware of some of the potential limitations or drawbacks that relying on PCs can result in.  One of the disturbing drawbacks could be limiting opportunities for students to learn proper grammar, punctuation, spelling and handwriting skills. While I certainly appreciate the fact that WORD automatically corrects the mistakes in  my texts, it does not necessarily provide me with the opportunity to research and learn these things for myself. The convenience of spell check probably means that I still won’t be able to spell the word correctly in the future, which probably means that I haven’t actually learned a single thing.

Another relevant flaw is the potential for teachers to lack proper ICT competencies. While some teachers are remarkably skilled in using PCs and make learning with them enjoyable, others have very few relevant skills. I am absolutely not blaming these teachers since many of them are still from the “pen and paper generation;” however, perhaps providing them with additional technology training would help students to get the most out of this type of education.

Last but not least, we have the good old (although equally important) issue of distraction. It literally takes 20 seconds to log onto Facebook and everything is gone- both the concentration as well as the ambition to do well in today’s class. And, if it is the last lesson of the day- forget it! How can we solve this problem? I really don’t understand why no one has done anything about this yet as there is nothing easier than blocking the famous Facebook, Netflix, Instagram while leaving the necessary sites open. One of the excuses might be that “Facebook is so easy to use when we have to send something in class,” but there are so many other ways in which we can do this.

And, as for mobile phones? Here it is the teacher’s responsibility to take charge. Every single teacher knows what the risk of having a phone on the desk is, but only a few of them have managed to deal with this problem effectively. Out of the 7 subjects I have, only two teachers have a routine- in one class we leave the phone on a desk by the door and in the other class we have to keep them in our bags under the desk. I must openly admit that those are the subjects in which I leave the class with a decent amount of knowledge.

Therefore, dear Minister of Education, my advice to you would be to focus on the three topics I mentioned above. I believe it would be worthwhile to offer every teacher a tutorial in the basics of ICT and provide some information as to how they can utilize laptops in their classrooms. I also assume that blocking distracting websites wouldn’t take too much effort…

In conclusion, teachers should be aware of the opportunities technology brings into our everyday lives. There are an infinite number of incredible and educational websites which can enhance our learning. Students, on the other hand, should know that laptops are practical for so much more than just watching movies. We should also learn the correct way of finding information, using sources and exploiting technical devices to their limits.

Road sign to  education and future

I imagine the classroom of the future with built-in desks, professional computers and other advantageous devices. The world is developing so fast that my grandchildren could be one of the first to experience this! I envision that already by 2026, schools will be paperless and technology will have provided smart alternatives. Maybe it will be laptops or tablets, or perhaps it will be something totally new! In this way, we not only benefit from saving the planet from a lack of trees but also expand our knowledge by using many beneficial programs.

We go to school to learn. I could equally well sit at home and do nothing, but going to school is my choice and my decision. This is the place that is supposed to prepare me for university and a career, to help me to achieve what I want in order to have a safe and happy future. This is exactly the reason why schools must be well equipped to prepare me for the challenges I will one day face out in the big world- a world where technology will undoubtedly play a major role in all of our lives.

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