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Beyond the blackboard: The classroom of tomorrow
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Beyond the blackboard: The classroom of tomorrow 

According to a recent study from Intel Canada, over one-third of post-secondary students spend their educational time online and mobile technology is directly responsible for that.

Technology has impacted the future of learning, and an increasing number of educational institutions are getting on board. In an exclusive interview with IT in Canada, Dr. Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair on Information Technology and Communications (ICT) in Education and professor at the University of Montreal opens up about why more schools are getting involved, and what the future holds for digitized learning.

IT in Canada: Why would you say that more schools are integrating mobile technology into learning?
Dr. Thierry Karsenti:
It makes both teaching and learning more effective. It also helps schools reach out to students who would not normally have access to post-secondary education simply because that’s what students want.

ITIC: How has this technology changed the classroom experience?
TK:
It’s completely changing the landscape of education. Students have the possibility of creating their own classroom, a classroom they can access anytime from anywhere, and that’s also what the Intel survey reveals. When you look at the results, students really feel connected to other students and the learning content, and they spend at least a third of their time (engaging) in online activities.

ITIC: The Intel study shows that one-third of students spend their educational time online. Will this figure increase, going forward?
TK:
I think it will increase, and I would say that it would increase by more than (one third) in the next few years. Students often don’t realize that they’re (learning) online. For them, it’s normal and natural to be online.

ITIC: Have there been any challenges with the introduction of technology into the classroom environment?
TK:
The main challenge that teachers are facing now is to make sure that the students are using this technology to learn and not to socialize or play games. In a way, it’s a good challenge because it helps teachers become better teachers. They can find ways to help students be more effective in their use of technology to help pursue careers and learn.

ITIC: It has often been said that students are getting bored with the traditional classroom learning structure. Will the addition of technology make learning a more exciting experience for them?
TK: Definitely. Students really enjoy learning with technology, and it makes learning much more interesting and interactive for them. They can also collaborate with others at the same. If the students are more interested and engaged, teachers will be happier as well.

ITIC: What are some of the ways that mobile technology can be used to promote collaboration and empowerment within the classroom?
TK:
With technology in the classroom, you’re giving more control to students, especially in post-secondary education, and that is what they want. They can access information in a variety of ways, and in their assignments or tasks, they are not only limited to the boundaries of the classroom itself. They can be connected to students in other countries or at other colleges or universities.

ITIC: There has been talk about creating an entirely paperless classroom. Do you think this can become reality?
TK:
I think that this will eventually become reality. If you look at the e-textbooks that are being used in some post-secondary institutions, it’s really amazing how the content of these textbooks can be adapted to the learning needs of each student. For example, let’s say you have an 800-page textbook. The textbook can become thicker or smaller based on your needs. I think in the very near future, e-textbooks will be the norm in our education. Using technology now is very important because (students) have to learn how to learn with technology.

ITIC: Many schools offer courses that are conducted entirely online. Do you think these courses will be on the rise in the future?
TK:
I think those will be on the rise, and the quality of these courses will have to be (superior) because students will be demanding more now that they’re used to learning with technology. They will want good online courses with lectures, and they’ll want to interact both with the teacher and the other students. Ten years ago, students were only connected three hours per week for a class. Now, they can be connected at all times. That’s what they want, and that’s what universities and colleges will have to make happen.

ITIC: Do you think more schools will adopt mobile technology in the future? Why or why not?
TK:
I think they’ll have no choice. More schools will adopt mobile technology, and the idea is to make sure that students have access to knowledge at all times. Both teachers and students agree that this is the future of education. It will happen, and it will happen very soon. The challenge will be to make sure that the online content is of good quality, and that the devices being used are flexible, have a good battery life, and are high-quality.

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