Advances in Education and Technology

Advances in technology seem to happen so fast, what was new yesterday is obsolete today. Some 40 years ago, a new hand-held device came into being, a calculator on which we could, add, subtract, multiply and divide, but not use in class. Now, there are graphical calculators able to do all kinds of complicated equations and can be an assist in the classroom.

Even 20 years ago, the Internet was text-based, email was new and even though combining education and technology, media complementing instruction, was making headway, there were plenty of skeptics. Now, there is technological instruction in virtually every field of study. We hold in our hands a multi-functional, multi-use font of information–that also makes phone calls.

The news about education and technology is it’s not going away and is becoming more essential in an ever-growing computerized world. Though, we may see all this technology at our grasp, it is not at everybody’s grasp. There is a digital divide, especially in the United States, between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not. Drastic education cuts to public schools in our major cities have deepened this. In private schools—and some better public schools–each student may be given a laptop. At other public schools, parents are asked to contribute paper and other supplies to the classroom. In a recent article, The Future of the American Economy Depends On 2 Crucial Factors: Education and Technology, the authors say, “Good science is a creation of a good education system. If you want good science and technology, you better place education at the front of the funding line.”   Despite the advances in the last 40 years mentioned above, the article says, “American education has been falling for the last 30 years. The best economies have always been the most technologically advanced.”

The authors note that following WWII former soldiers were able to attend college for free, including Ivy League schools. In addition, the New York City colleges were free. “The scientists and engineers and teachers and thinkers who brought in the information age, who took us to the moon, who waged the cold war, you name it – all those men and women were educated through the GI Bill,” says Ed Humes.

Now, the cost of a college education is astronomical and funding from states and cities to higher education was cut 33% between 2001-2012. Lower income students are not only facing an educational deficit against their counterparts at other schools in the admission process, but a financial one. Without this preparation and education how positive can their employment prospects be?

The Minnesota Private College Council charted the entrance and completion rates to college of low income, low middle income, high middle income and high-income students. They studied children born between 1979 and 1982. Of the 80% of high-income students that matriculated, 54% completed. That pales to the low-income figures of 29% starting college and 9% finishing.

Another study of college completion also incorporated eighth-grade testing scores. Curiously, 30% of low-scoring high-income students completed college, almost identical to the 29% of high-scoring, low-income students. This, say the authors, shows the effect of an economic disparity, not an ability one.

Recent scores (2012) of 15 year olds in the international PISA test showed American youths ranking 24th in reading, 36th in mathematics, and 28th in science. In the ACT college entrance test, only 25% of American high school seniors scored adequately in those subjects.

The authors say the short-term answer is through immigration of high-level research minds in science and technology from other countries, and overhauling the archaic American patent law so they can get credit for their work. Their optimism for people already here is a projected increase in population and that “…the U.S. always seems to fix things even if sometimes it takes too long… surely they can fix education and research. However, if they take too long fixing the present situation, the demographic dividend could become a demographic disaster; a huge prime-age cohort with no prospects.”

There has also been a push in some areas for businesses to take a bigger interest in education. They must realize the students of today are their employees of tomorrow. Contribute computer labs in urban schools. Talk and mentor the students. Show them what’s possible.

Encore Data Products provides a number of products for educational settings that can enhance the learning environment. Contact us, so we can help you reverse the pessimism