Education Expert: Five Ways to Help Students Become Creators and Not Just Consumers of Technology

To impact real-world problems, educators must teach kids how to create technology, not just use technology.

Schoolchildren playing with tablet
jovannig/stock.adobe.com

The teacher in a class of 15 special education students was frustrated because she couldn't get the kids to put down their phones and tablets and turn off their mobile computers. She spoke louder and even walked up to their desks to gain her students' attention, but most of them disregarded her. Finally, after we introduced the hands-on portion of a program I've been developing, they put away their electronic gadgets. We were able to keep their attention for a full 45 minutes, and both teachers and students had a great time by the end of the session.

The most-reported teacher concern is student digital distraction, yet technology is being included in the classroom at an increasing rate. Students don't need to be taught how to use technology; give a toddler a smartphone or tablet, and they'll quickly figure out which buttons to press for their favorite games. What students need is to learn how to create new technology so that they may become problem-solvers and makers of tomorrow.

Here are five ways we can make this happen:

1. Teach the Language of Science

Technology, by definition, is "the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes." Before a student can apply scientific knowledge to any new idea, they must first grasp the fundamental principles of science and engineering concepts and understand how science works. In high school, it isn't enough to begin teaching basic scientific disciplines such as chemistry and physics. Students do not have the time to become "scientifically literate" in a few short years. Instead, students should be taught scientific words and ideas repeatedly starting in the elementary grades, so they'll be familiar with the "language of science" by the time they get to high school and college.

2. Encourage Questions

Students must be encouraged to ask questions about how things work. It's easy for students to fall into a passive learning mode when so much class time is spent waiting to respond to questions supplied by the instructor or publisher. Real learning occurs when students are permitted to ask and answer their questions. Why does a computer screen show up in color? How does music play from our phones? How does the inside of a phone work?

3. Help Separate Information

To look for answers to the questions they're interested in, students need to learn how to find the correct information on the internet effectively. It's a big deal to understand how to search, which websites are trustworthy and where you can get more information on the internet. The internet is a massive warehouse of facts about our world but is also littered with misinformation, and teaching students how to separate the two is essential.

4. Apply Science to Everyday Life

Educators must help students see how science can be applied to their everyday lives. Chemistry and physics may appear dry and uninteresting to pupils and adults when studied from a book. But chemistry and physics are essential to all that people do. Learning how soap works, how food fuels bodies, or why the sky is blue makes chemistry and physics more interesting and helps build a student's ability to one day solve real-world problems.

5. Foster a Love of Nature

Finally, educators should foster a love of nature in their students so they understand how ecosystems work and the importance of protecting the environment. Students should be urged to take time away from their computers and interact with the real world. It's too easy for kids to spend their time playing on digital gadgets and never look up or study our planet. Suppose educators can help kids understand how interconnected all living things are and get them interested in learning more about the physical world in which everyone lives. In that case, even more discoveries and inventions may be awaiting us.

To impact real-world problems, educators must teach kids how to create technology, not just use technology. EdTech platforms are just one piece of the puzzle. Let's not forget the importance of teaching kids how to make technology.

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