Research validates the use of technology as a means to prepare for success in the 21st century and increase critical thinking and data management skills.

Using technology to build students’ information management skills

Students need to be able to easily manage and use information personally and professionally in the 21st century. Skills such as the ability to collect, analyze and understand data and information support good decisionmaking and are key to their success. Research validates the use of technology as a means to prepare for success in the 21st century and increase critical thinking and data management skills The best learning occurs when real world problems are paired with real world tools for problem solving. As technology is an integral part of 21st century students’ realities, these tools need to be digital to be relevant. When used for mapping, digital tools elicit problem solving behaviors in students which persist even when students are not using them (Chmielewski and Dansereau, 1998).
In order to meet the expectations of students who live in a technologyrich environment, the classroom must provide interactive opportunities which motivate and allow them to focus on learning the content rather than the task. With the overwhelming amount of information students are expected to absorb from textbooks, class discussions and other resources, they need simple and accessible ways to organize and process information and their ideas about it. Instead of conducting analysis using paper and pencil, creating graphs digitally removes the focus on the lower-level task of plotting the graph and allows students to apply higher order skills to understanding the science in their experiment (Rogers, 1995). When working with a variety of information, experimenting with multiple graph types easily and in real time maintains student interest and encourages engagement. In a study by Nafiz Osman and Jazlin Ebenezer (2007), students’ attitudes toward and confidence about science improved when they used technology during their lessons.
Janet Sturm and Joan Rankin-Erickson (2002) compared four elements of essay writing using computer-generated concept maps: number of words, syntactic maturity, number of T-units and holistic writing scores. Students who created computer-generated maps scored higher, wrote more and felt better about their writing than the students who created hand-drawn maps, or used no specific tools. Students said they preferred the computer-generated maps because the hand-drawn maps were too sloppy, too hard to modify and the page became confusing without an easy way to organize the information.