Technology in the Classroom: Helpful or Harmful?
Kids gravitate towards technology—if your child heads straight for the video games or Facebook after school, you know what we’re talking about. With a world of information at their fingertips nowadays, it seems like kids should be finding it easier than ever to succeed in school. However, as more classrooms invest in the latest technology, test scores remain the same, bringing its effectiveness into question.
Technology and Teaching
“Incorporating technology into the classroom requires a double innovation,” says Shelley Pasnik, director of the Center for Education and Technology, Educators who receive new technology must first learn how to use the equipment and then decide whether or not it supports the class objectives and curriculum.
For example, an instructor may restructure a lecture into a group activity, having students conduct online research to boost their understanding. With such a vast reference tool, the students might pose questions that no one in the class, not even the teacher himself, can answer. Many teachers and schools choose to avoid this situation by discouraging the use of computers in a well-organized lesson. Their latest shipment of Smartboards, ELMOs, or iPads stays locked in a closet as they struggle to find the time to effectively incorporate them into the curriculum plan.
Despite the challenges, incorporating technology into education still has proven benefits, especially when it comes to personalized learning. From math games that adjust the level of difficulty as players progress to electronic books that talk and respond to the tap of a finger, products that personalize the learning experience for students often benefit their understanding. An interactive game is more engaging than a book, so technology often promotes more practice and review in areas requiring memorization, such as spelling, math and geography. This frees up time in the classroom so educators can focus on skills like problem solving, character development and critical thinking.
Technology also makes it easier to spend more overall time on learning. “After school and weekend time can become effective learning time with the right technology,” says David Vinca, founder and executive director of eSpark Learning, an education company that focuses on bringing iPads and iPods into the classroom. Much like how smart phones extend the workday by allowing professionals to send emails anytime, educational technology extends the school day for kids who will happily play multiplication games or review grammar on computer programs.
Educators also find it easier to track and assess student progress with the help of technology. At the end of each lesson cycle in eSpark’s app, students record a video summarizing what they’ve learned, and email it to their teacher. If a student consistently misspells words of a certain pattern, the teacher will know immediately and reintroduce that specific skill. This kind of data-driven information is invaluable for teachers who want to revise and review.
KNOWLEDGE – The Light Of Life
KNOWLEDGE – The Light Of Life
Alia Ahmed | Young Muslims
“Dedicate your life to Knowledge and Humanity”, these were words
of advice from my father when I had asked for his autograph – it was precisely
what his life was all about. But this was way back in my teenage years and I wonder
if I had grabbed the true wisdom behind these momentous words then. Sixteen
years down the road, I still wonder if I do now.
Knowledge may be a single word but it has so much depth in it that we are seldom
able to do justice to it’s meaning. Synonymous to wisdom, knowledge is an awareness, an understanding; the information that one has acquired through learning or experience. Knowledge is the end product or the resultant of being educated. Whereas, education is the process of achieving knowledge, of learning and training oneself. A proper form of education should develop a person mentally as well as morally. But somehow over the ages, education has been widely and falsely associated with the sole purpose of attaining certificates or degrees
from various academic institutions. Education cannot be restricted to a mere procurement of a degree. In fact it must broaden one’s mind and heighten thinking and reasoning capabilities. Education enhances the power of knowing and understanding by which man can obtain knowledge. The truth is that we can never lay ample stress on the importance of education. One needs to be appropriately educated in order to rightly understand the world around us, to deal with its problems and to be able to solve them accordingly. Now the bottom-line is to comprehend what appropriate and useful knowledge is all about. Does it only begin and end at an educational institute or is it meant to go beyond that?
Does our obligation as a parent end the moment our child begins to go to school?
There is a hadith, which we so often hear that the best thing that a father
can give to his children is a good education. Unfortunately, providing proper
education has been conveniently translated into getting the kids settled into
renowned academic institutions.
Two months back, a friend of mine was narrating how a member of her family had to queue up, a night in advance, in front of a school building in order to obtain an admission form of one of the prestigious schools of her city. She wished to get her three-year-old toddler admitted there. The admission forms were to be made available the following morning but since so many parents were anxious to have their children taken in, a queue had begun to form a day earlier.
Though it may sound unbelievable, it is true to the core. I too would not have believed the lady’s story had I not heard a similar version of it from a different quarter earlier on. It left me bewildered. One marvels at the fact that a vast majority of the human race would readily take all sorts of pains in order to give their kids the best education they can afford but would not
be prepared to put in half as much efforts for their spiritual uplift. We seldom spend value time with our children to transmit knowledge that will turn them into responsible human beings. On the contrary, we would willingly pool in all types of resources in the form of money, time, tutions… etc.in order to impart worldly education to our kids – you name it and we would not wish to compromise on anything if it is in our hands to give our child what we call a good education and it’s sequel, a degree. Fine! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and if the family can afford it, then why not? Butthe actual question is, “Is that sufficient?” Definitely not. If it was, then only those persons would have succeeded in life that graduated from prestigious erudite institutions. And mind you, success in life cannot be measured in term of money earned or a high social rank attained, in fact it is much much more – beyond the threshold of understanding of a majority of us. For most of us degree-oriented-education is all that is required to acquire a good job, a high status and recognition in the society. And we seldom think
beyond these self-generated goals.
Degree-oriented-education, though consequential, is still not sufficient to grasp the true meaning of life and it’s philosophies. The truth is that enlightenment of the soul is
just as much important (if not more) as that of the mind.
Permit me to quote a few excerpts here, from the letter written by one of the
world’s greatest statesmen, Abraham Lincoln, to his son’s principal.
“He will have to learn. I know, that all men are not just, all men
are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader…”
“Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. It will take time,
I know; but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value
than five found… “
“In school teach him that it is far more honorable to fail than to
cheat… teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells
him they are wrong… teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough
with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when
everyone is getting on the band wagon.”
“Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire
makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient…, let him
have the patience to be brace. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself
because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.”
It seems there is a lot more to be learnt then we had ever imagined.
Knowledge should help one recognize right from wrong, friend from foe, truth from falsity. It should not be superficial instead it must go deep into the wisdom of things. Knowledge is not an end in itself but a means of seeking much nobler aims that can only be attained if it is put to proper use. There is an oft-repeated hadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari, narrated by Abdullah bin Masood (raziallah anhu), that the Prophet (sal allahu alaihi wasalam) said,” Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. The first is a person, to whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously (according to what Allah has ordained in a just and right way); (the second is) the one whom Allah has given Al-Hikmah [wisdom i.e. the knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah (legal ways) of the Prophet (sal allahu alaihi wasalam)] and he acts according to it and teaches it to others.”
When we look back at the Islamic history we find that the companions of the Prophet (sal allahu alaihi wasalam) had two major aims in their lives. One was attaining the knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah; and second was their practice in accordance with that knowledge. This brings us to the corollary that withoutan authentic and reliable knowledge of the divinely approved way of living we cannot hope of success in this life and, of much more significance, the hereafter. Recently, while leafing-through (Al-Raheeq Al-Makhtoom) a biography of our beloved Prophet Mohammed (sal allahu alaihi wasalam) I came upon the following passage which I am reproducing underneath:
“The Prophet (sal allahu alaihi wasalam) on his part, would always
maintain and sustain his followers’ souls with the light of belief,
sanctify them through inculcating the Quranic wisdom in their hearts and cultivate
their minds deeply with the spirit of Islam that would elevate them to a state
of noble spirituality, pure heartedness and and an absolute degree of freedom
from the yoke of materialism, a high morale powerful enough to resist worldly
lusts and consequently lead them from darkness to light.”
And this is the form of enlightenment, the knowledge, the light of life that we have been trying to discover all along.
With my limited knowledge, I have come to the understanding that a learned person is not just a soul that has a lot of degrees to boast about but someone who has recognized his creator and in turn discovered himself. The Quran says: “Only those of his servants who possess knowledge fear Allah.” (35:29). Wisdom is to know your creator and to know the purpose behind your creation.
Just like a diligent student who shall never waste time by indulging in futile activities, in order to attain favorable grades in the exams, a person who has acquired the wisdom behind his existence shall never sit idle and would make the most of his time to gather the best he can for the Day of Judgement. A knowledgeable person would never feel content on little but would thrive on achieving higher aims. He would rush to grab as many pious deeds as possible. Erudition would help him identify Satan and his evil tactics and ways to overcome such hurdles. Such a person would be more in control of himself instead of cursing his fate each time. Though a cliché, one cannot overstress the fact that knowledge is light, whereas ignorance is darkness. Allah has given man the blessing of intellect, which raises him to the level of taking on responsibilities given by our Lord. A wise person knows that it is not enough for him to read the Quran but even more important is to practice its doctrine; only that may lead him towards a peaceful end. When an infliction falls on such a person he handles it with patience and remains grateful to his Creator for having saved him from a greater trial that might have befallen instead.
Our Prophet (sal allahu alaihiwasalam) said that a person who has tidings of the heavens cannot stay asleep the whole night through, since he would be anxious to attain that place; hence he would waste no time and would spend part of the night praying and repenting and asking for Allah’s forgiveness and blessings. Similarly, a person having information regarding hell shall not sleep peacefully at night, since the fear of hell would not permit him to overlook his responsibilities as a true Muslim.
We may say that knowledge allows a person to recognize his mistakes and in turn rectify them. We have learnt from the Quran that when we shall look back at our worldly lives in the Hereafter, it would seem that we had only spent a day or just a fraction of a day in the world. Our whole life, spread over so many years, would merely seem like a passing moment in the Afterworld. Isn’t this knowledge enough to correct out ways? Why are we so convinced to risk our everlasting abode for something that will seem so meaningless, so short and temporary once we would look back at it?
On the outlook it seems that the world has progressed a lot on the basis of its discoveries but inspite of all this evolvement we are perplexed people. Buffaloed and bound to the chains of this world. The hereafter is lost and forgotten. Islamic teachings furnish a complete code of life, which must be absorbed and implemented. And an individual who has acquired the true wisdom of the Islamic doctrines shall never be lost or misled. I end with a portion of our Prophet’s
(sal allahu alaihi wasalam) supplication, reported by Ahmed and Muslim:
“Oh Allah, I seek your refuge from a knowledge that does not benefit,
from a heart that does not fear (You), from a soul that is not satisfied,
and from a prayer that is not granted.”
What is Wrong With Our Education System?
Quick question: Who discovered America? The almost guaranteed answer: Why, Columbus, of course. The bright student may even know the famous story that Columbus thought he had reached India and therefore called the people he found Indians.
If providing sound knowledge and developing critical thinking capabilities are any goals of an education system, the answer highlights the miserable failure of the education system prevalent in the Muslim world today on both counts. For no one asks the obvious: How can anyone be credited with discovering a land that was already heavily populated? Columbus was the first European to discover America, not the first man. Hundreds of thousands of other men and women had reached there before him and had been living for centuries. The assertion about Columbus reveals a Euro-centric mindset but the bias goes undetected and unquestioned.
This is not the only questionable fact that our schools and colleges, and textbooks and teachers have been dispensing. In every field of study, they have been passing on "facts", ideas, values, assumptions, perspectives, explanations, "truths", and principles that are questionable, secular and anti-Islamic. All while sincerely believing that they are providing a great service by promoting education.
Education is a wonderful thing. But, what are we really teaching?
In science, we are teaching our students to look at the universe from the viewpoint of a person who does not know God. "And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn their faces away from them." [Yusuf, 12:105]. A proper study of science would make one appreciate both the Power, Majesty, and Grandeur of Allah’s creations and the humbleness and limitations of human knowledge and abilities. Today our science education, in its best form, gives exactly the opposite message. It also fails to enable students to separate scientist’s opinions from their facts. Let’s ask: In the wide Muslim world is there any, Islamic school teaching science whose graduates can challenge Darwin’s Theory of Evolution on scientific grounds? As we teach science, are we teaching our children to put science in its proper place, to know its limitations? Can they competently question the "technological imperative"?
A medical doctor would not be considered competent if he did not know the limitations of the medicines and procedures he used. An engineer would be considered unqualified if he did not know the limitations of his tools. Why then our teaching of science does not include a discussion of its limitations? Because for the secular mindset science is the ultimate tool, the supreme arbiter of Truth and Falsehood. Without even realizing it, we have accepted the proposition and our science education reflects that assumption.
The problem is not limited to science and technology. The best of our MBAs have learned that the goal of a business is to maximize profits, the goal of marketing is to create demand, and the proper way of making business decision is through cost-benefit analysis. All of these are as solid in their eyes and as questionable in reality as the assertion about Columbus. The best of our journalism graduates do not have a different model for journalism than the one presented by the West. They do not have their own definition of the news, their purpose for gathering it or their own moral standards that must regulate its dissemination. In economics we have been teaching that human beings are utility-maximizing animals governed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In our teaching of history, we see random events without a moral calculus driving them. We do not see Allah’s laws that govern the rise and fall of nations. In psychology or sociology, medicine or engineering, civics or geography, it is the same story. In fact, our schools and colleges have been the main agency for secularization of Islamic societies. They have been effectively teaching that Islam is irrelevant to understanding this world or to solving its problems. Many of their graduates develop misunderstandings and doubts about their faith. But even when they are strong practicing Muslims, they have not been trained and educated to detect and challenge the secular dogmas that have been integrated into their curriculums.
This great tragedy is of a recent origin and a historical perspective may be helpful. For centuries our societies, culture, and education system were free of the secular/religious dichotomy. Our schools taught all subjects of importance using a naturally unified approach. As long as Muslims were the leaders in all the sciences (until the fifteenth century C.E) subjects like medicine, astronomy, and chemistry had not developed their secular biases.
The dichotomy started in the West during its "Renaissance" as it threw away its religious dogmas--which had become a burden--and found a speedy path to material progress using a-religious or secular approaches. The industrial revolution gave it momentum. Colonialism brought secular ideology and the religion of secular humanism to the Muslim lands.
At this time, Muslims were at a low point on several fronts. They had surrendered intellectual leadership to the West and had failed to keep pace with scientific developments there. They found themselves in a no-win situation. If they accepted and taught the Western sciences, they would also be teaching anti-Islamic dogmas. If they stayed isolated, they would be left behind in science and material progress.
In response, Muslims developed two approaches. Our Darul-ulooms preserved Islamic knowledge and values by hermetically sealing themselves against western influences. It is due to this effort that Islamic knowledge is alive and well today. (Where they were lax in this matter --- as in some Arab countries--- the result was a compromise in their Islamic character without any advantage in the quality of education.) However, they are not equipped to provide leadership in most other areas of the society. This role has gone to the graduates of the Western-style schools and colleges. Unfortunately, these schools and their curriculum nurture secular ways of looking at this world and solving its problems. The tensions created by the two diametrically opposed systems can be seen today in every Muslim country.
This dichotomy must end. We cannot move forward without revamping our education. We cannot fully establish Islam in our societies without producing educated citizens and leaders needed for an Islamic society. The time is now to develop Integrated Islamic curriculums and remove secular biases from all of our education. Merely establishing more schools is not the answer. Developing educational institutions that can teach every subject in the wholesome Islamic context is. It is a monumental task. But without it we’ll continue to spread ignorance in the name of education.
By: Khalid Baig