Businesses, government and other organizations have harnessed these technologies and platforms. Academia has embraced them, poised to transform education. The capability of schools to post, stream, connect and store information and content has redefined the classroom, the job description of teachers and the expectations of students.


The Teacher’s Role


Prior to the Internet, the textbook and printed workbooks formed the primary content. This shaped the traditional role of teachers as the main presenter of knowledge. The classroom served as the teacher’s stage. Grasp of the material and communication of it are critical skills in such an educational model.


With the Internet and its search engines come a plethora of sources, tutorials and other educational resources. As a result of technology, the teacher assumes the tasks of gatekeeper and guide to the students. This involves ensuring the accuracy, credibility and relevancy of the sources. Further, the teachers may share the stage with online presenters. Consider the possibility of an astronaut narrating space exploration and fielding questions. A meteorologist may conduct a video presentation and get questions via emails or social media.


Increasing Student and Parent Participation


Teachers increasingly rely on the Internet and cloud-computing to assign homework, projects and practice lessons. Students can complete them online and submit them, in many cases for instant feedback. On teacher portals, students can link to interactive tutorials with practice questions and problems. These sites afford the students immediate responses to their answers. Teachers can also post videos, podcasts and other presentations for students to access away from the classroom.


These approaches foster active and independent learning by students. They also affords parents the ability to know, without asking, how their children progress in school. Due to cloud and other data storage, teachers can record and parents can access their student’s’ grades for tests and assignments. Thanks to technology, students cannot “lose” report cards or claim teaches have not graded tests and school work.


Across Many Miles


Technology has created virtual classrooms and virtual schools. Many students of these schools engage in “synchronous learning,” with real-time teaching via Internet streams. The tools of virtual classrooms and schools include live-chats, audio and video conferences, and sharing whiteboards, data and applications. Emails, discussion threads and review of file attachments serve as time-delayed methods of virtual teaching.


Distance learning has taken a hold in K-12 education. In the 2013-2014 academic year, the United States had 478 public virtual schools, with 28 states and the District Columbia reporting at least one such school. For the 2011-2012 school year, 1.8 million students enrolled in online distance education programs and 275,000 were full-time online students.


Post-secondary education, including colleges, universities and technical schools, has seized upon virtual classrooms through streaming and videos. In 2012, one in three Americans between ages 25 and 29 held at least a bachelor’s degree. Approximately 5.8 million students enrolled in online or distance college programs in the Fall 2014 semester. That represents 28.5 percent of enrollees, with 14.5 percent of enrolled students taking all courses online.


The rising prominence of virtual schools and distance learning comes, in part, courtesy of stream processing and its ability to deliver high amounts of content in real-time. Apache Kafka on AWS is another software that has the ability to provide efficient data streaming messaging systems and other data-based applications.


Encouraging Students to Write


Teachers have found social media and other digital networking as valuable tools in writing instruction. These formats, which thrive on reactions by users to posts, encourage students to become expressive and creative. Out of 2,462 Advanced Placement (AP) and Digital Writing Project (DWP) teachers surveyed, approximately 78 percent “agreed” that social media enhanced expression and creativity, with 26 percent “strongly” agreeing to such impact. With a wider audience, students on social media may pay greater attention to what and how they write.


The presence of social media may create teachable moments for students on formal writing. Social media sites (especially Twitter) limit available space for writing. Combined with a general cultural bent toward informal writing and communications, students tend to speed through writing assignments and minimize the importance of editing, grammar and syntax. Their writing assignments tend to have errors. Almost 68 percent of the survey respondents opined that social media encouraged less effort among students in their writing.


Overall, technological advances have encouraged students to own their education and have opened teachers and students to new ways to receive and test knowledge.