Education begins and ends with the relationship between the teacher and the student.  While this idea is nothing new and has existed for thousands of years, it has undergone substantial change for better or for worse. Technology can help us, however, create an enviornment where teachers can impart more of their wisdom to more students, allowing more children to become better members of society.

The ancient Indian gurus and Greek pedagogues viewed the act of learning as something deeply personal. Children did not just learn how to read and write, they learned how to become better human beings. Ideas like the Socratic method encouraged students to challenge each other’s ideas through debate and to grow and mature into independant thinkers who aimed to learn more about the world around them. While these educational ideals nurtured some of the greatest minds and figureheads in human history, it was normally something available to a very small group of people at a very high cost.

Today in the United States, our current system of public schools allows teachers to reach a greater number of students and help them learn valuable skills, but in order for schools to keep their funding, and teachers to keep their salaries, they must appease the politicians and bean counters who control the flow of money. This has resulted in teachers “teaching to the test”—and students are missing the joy of exploring the world around them.

Now, the descriptions I have written above are by no means exhaustive, but I believe both systems have certain advantages that are essential toward creating the perfect educational system. What is needed is a way for teachers to reach and actively engage as many children as humanly possible at once. So, how can we foster an inquisitive and rational mindset in a child while making the process accessible to as many people as possible?

I believe the answer starts with teachers effectively utilizing current technology.

As I have said before, technology can only enhance learning, it can never replace a teacher. Modern tools, such as social media, however, can make a teacher’s job easier, which in turn allows a teacher to reach a greater number of students. It’s no small secret that companies like Facebook have built their business around learning everything they can about their users. By collecting information on what you like, dislike or view at any given time, they can build a nearly complete profile of your life, your personality and what you might want to buy in the next couple of weeks. Whether you find this ethical or not is entirely up to you, but even the most rabid critic has to be impressed with the number of details and conclusions that a company like Facebook can make with the information given.

So, if we can learn so much about a person utilizing this new kind of technology why not apply it to the way we teach? If teachers can understand how each individual student learns, or what excites them instantly from the comfort of their own living room, it will make the job of tailoring a lesson plan to a student’s individual needs much easier, which will allow a teacher to reach more children in a shorter period of time.

Of course, there are practical and ethical concerns that will have to be addressed before something like this is adopted on any level.  There are many risks with putting student and school information on the Internet where anyone can access them. The safety of our students is absolutely paramount. But utilizing modern tools, such as social media, can allow our teachers to foster a deep and meaningful sense of curiosity within a large number of students and, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Fortunately, there are several companies out there that have recognized this problem and are working on products that provide just that kind of service and help address some of the biggest concerns of adopting social media into the classroom. Companies like Schoology and Edmodo are creating safe virtual Learning Management Systems where teachers can learn more about their students in a shorter time in order to deliver a more personalized educational experience.

A better educational system is within our reach. In order to achieve it, we must give our teachers the tools to engage and foster as many young minds as humanly possible.

Bottom line: In order to improve our current educational system we must be able to adopt elements of classical education into our modern school system.  Teachers must be allowed to connect with their students and foster a deeply personal sense of curiousity about the world around them while giving students the necessary skills to exist in modern day society.  Technology, such as Learning Management Systems, will allow our teachers to reach more students quickly, efficiently and safely.

Photo Courtesy of Agile Dudes