EdTech: The Benefits of Technology in the Classroom
A fantastic enhanced learning opportunity, or a unnecessary distraction?
Digital methods of teaching are becoming increasingly popular. Implementing technology into the classroom can provide a wealth of benefits to student learning.
Let’s take a look at how.
Makes Learning More Fun
Technology makes learning more interesting and exciting for students. Many platforms allow teachers to run live polls, quizzes and surveys, encouraging student interaction and maintaining classroom engagement.
Several studies have proven that the incorporation of electronic devices like laptops, cell phones and tablets can significantly improve student enjoyment in the classroom. Technology makes teaching more dynamic. Instead of reading from textbooks or listening to their teacher, students are encouraged to learn proactively, participating more in lessons and collaborating with peers.
Personalize the Education Experience
Digital learning can help pupils progress at their own pace. Whereas conventional methods of teaching make use of textbooks, whole-class activities and group discussions, individualized learning through technology gives students control over their learning experience.
Digital materials can provide opportunities for new teaching methods. Learning through website creation, individualized research and video creation can allow students to learning freely and at a speed that suits them best.
Instant Access to Knowledge
Gone are the days of scouring through textbooks for hours on end in search of answers to simple questions. Now, Google, Bing and Yahoo provide an infinite sea of knowledge that can be accessed within seconds. This is great for students. It allows them to access information instantly rather than wasting valuable lesson time searching for it elsewhere.
Facilitates Collaboration Amongst Peers
Technology is a great way to encourage students to collaborate and connect with one another. A study into the effects of technology and communication on classroom interaction showed that students were more inclined to work cooperatively, helping their peers learn and create.
As not all students had equal technological experience, incompetent pupils sought assistance from peers that better understood technology. A social, cooperative learning environment was created. Group projects like whole-class blogging spaces or website building provide a similar effect. Students are encouraged to work together.
Reflects the Real World of Work
Though a handful of teachers cling to their paperbacks and chalkboards, the modern world of work is built almost entirely around technology. Today’s offices are just rooms filled with computers. Businessmen operate from Macbooks and tablets, not notebooks and pens.
And, as The Inbox reports, 75% of all emails are checked using a smartphone. Teaching young people the painstaking skill of cursive writing, how to forage through dictionaries or to draft thousand-word essays by hand does little to prepare them for their future career. These skills rarely prove useful in today’s working environment.
It makes more sense to prepare youngsters by providing them with technological experience in the classroom.
Benefits for Teachers
Not only can technology benefit students, but it can make things easier for teachers, too. There are countless online resources that can facilitate the teaching process. Virtual lesson planners, grading software and course construction tools are all easily accessible.
Student knowledge can quickly be assessed using online polling software like Poll Everywhere. These allow teachers to push out questions to students’ device, whether it be smartphone, laptop or desktop. Answers can be collected within minutes and the percentage of correct answers automatically calculated. With this information, weak areas can be easily identified and worked on further.
Are There Any Downsides?
While technology can provide a number of benefits to classroom learning, there are a handful of downsides to bear in mind.
Lack of Support
Not all children are technologically adept. And neither are all teachers. The introduction of technology into the classroom also requires the anticipation of technological errors. If a teacher isn’t experienced in using computers, tech experts will have to be called in to fix any bugs. This can waste valuable lesson time.
Furthermore, teachers may not be capable of providing students with the technical help they need. If a student needs assistance in creating a Keynote presentation, for instance, teachers that have little technological experience will be unable to provide this. This lack of support could be detrimental to students’ educational progress if not preempted. Time that would otherwise be spent teaching could quickly be lost in finding technical assistance or researching help online.
Technology is a very expensive investment for educational institutions. First are the costs of the equipment itself, which can be several thousands of dollars – not including installation fees.
Even after equipment has been purchased, software updates and maintenance repairs can quickly begin to cost a lot of money. The successful introduction of technology into the classroom requires not only upfront expenditures, but an ongoing maintenance plan and adequate funding.
A Source of Distraction
While technology can enhance learning, it can also provide young people with a wealth of distractions. Children aren’t always accustomed to using technology for education. Many students use it for pleasure outside of the classroom.
Bringing smartphones and tablets into the learning environment can detract from concentrated learning. Online games, instant messaging and social networking can be tempting, steering classroom focus away from the task at hand.
Spending excessive amounts of time using technology is unhealthy. Young children can face a range of well-being issues if exposed to technology for extended periods. Sitting at a computer screen for multiple hours a day, for instance, can cause a wealth of health problems.
Deep vein thrombosis, eye strain and migraines are all potential side-effects of excessive blue-screen exposure. And that’s not forgetting radiation. Frequencies emitted from wireless devices can be very harmful. Subjection to large amounts of radiation from lap-based devices can cause infertility issues and rashes. More severe side-effects can also occur as a result of DNA damage.
Many epidemiological studies have drawn links between prolonged cell phone/laptop usage and gliomas, a rare form of brain tumor. Exposing children to classrooms filled with technological devices can increase the risk of such conditions developing.
These risks can, however, be minimized. Encouraging short breaks every 15-20 minutes will ensure that thrombosis and headaches are avoided. Students can also be educated on the effects of long-term exposure, allowing them to take precautions at home.
Disregards Variation of Economic Background
Not all school children can afford computers and laptops. If students are expected to work from these devices in school, those that do not have access to similar equipment at home will be disadvantaged. Many families can afford textbooks and notepads. The same cannot be said about computers and tablets.
Equality is crucial in a school environment. Disregarding this fact may not only impair some students’ learning capabilities at home, but could also provide a basis for bullying to occur. Wealthier children may be unkind to those that cannot afford technology at home. Conventional methods do not come with this issue.
What Kind of EdTech is Being Introduced?
Technological advancements are progressing at a rapid pace. What began as the addition of mainframes and minicomputers into schools during the 1970s has quickly developed into classrooms filled with Macintosh laptops and ubiquitous WiFi signal.
After just 15 years, over a quarter of high schools began using PCs for career guidance. Many of today’s schools contain hundreds of computers. WiFi is ubiquitous and stringent rules once intended to ban smartphones from the classroom are quickly becoming more lenient.
Specialist educational departments make use of 3D printing and power tools. ICT classrooms are being kitted out with the latest in computer hardware. Technology is being incorporated into the world of education at an incredibly fast pace. Not only that, but existing technologies that have been used for decades are receiving many innovative upgrades.
Where text-based digital documents were once the standard in classroom-based tech, graphics and video are quickly taking their place. Larger computer storage, upgraded RAM capacity and fiber-optic WiFi capabilities are becoming commonplace in schools and colleges. Based on its progress so far, the future of technology in schools could hold far greater possibilities than we see today.
We shall explore this more in depth later.
How to Introduce Technology Into your Classroom
The wealth of available digital resources can be intimidating at first. It can be hard to know how to incorporate these new methods into your teaching practice.
Before introducing technology into the classroom, it’s crucial to remember that several other changes will have to take place once it has been implemented. Teaching styles will have to be adjusted. With the inclusion of technology, the tutor will no longer be the center of attention. Classroom focus will, depending on the frequency of use, be largely centered around technology.
A teacher will still be necessary. Students will still require assistance and guidance. Learning will, however, become considerable more proactive and independent, led by students. Taking this into account allows preparation to be made.
Furthermore, considering the benefit that technology will have on your lessons will allow you to decide how best to incorporate it.
There are a variety of ways to bring tech into the classroom. If your classroom has an interactive whiteboard and projector already, there are many online applications that can be used to facilitate the learning process.
Here are a number of tools to use with whiteboards in the classroom:
- Interactive websites like BrainPOP offer entertaining video clips and activities that students can participate in.
- Scholastic also have a range of whiteboard activities, from reading exercises for younger students to interactive quizzes and walkthroughs.
- Use video conferencing tools like Skype to connect with speakers outside of the classroom.
- Display information on attractive slides using Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote.
Some classrooms can have clusters of 2-6 computers. This provides the opportunity to use other, more in-depth tools with your students:
- Kidblog allows students to create and publish work to a connected space, encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration.
- Use a tool like Edmodo or Moodle to manage lesson content as well as assessments and projects.
- Instruct students to create their own videos using Animoto.
- Help students to build websites using Wix or Weebly.
You might even have access to whole rooms full of computers. If so, you can use:
- Allow students to progress through lesson content independently using ebooks and VoiceThreads.
- Conduct live quizzes and polls to test student understanding using a tool like Poll Everywhere.
- Make use of collaborative note taking and information sharing with Evernote.
As well as having personal laptops and notebooks, if your students have smartphones, more tools can be used in the classroom:
- Allow students to create their own educational videos using the Animoto app.
- Provide ebooks for independent reading.
- Give access to course content using the Edmodo app.
- Allow independent research.
The Classroom of the Future?
Let’s have some fun here and take a look at what the classroom of the future may look like!
A Classroom set in Augmented, Virtual, or Alternative Reality?
The introduction of virtual reality headsets holds immense potential for the future of learning. Previously, students had been restricted to viewing flat images in textbooks – a diagram of the heart, for instance. Looking at two-dimensional images of the organ gives students a feel for how it may look in real-life. Labels assist their imagination.
They can develop a sound knowledge of the inner workings of the heart, but this knowledge lacks depth and dimension. Now, students can view the heart and other images in full using an augmented reality headset. They can scrutinize it from all angles. They can move closer, looking at each ventricle and vessel with a new sense of depth and clarity.
Their tour can be guided by voice assistance, a digital guide talking them through every detail. If students wish to embark on a field trip to a local biology museum, months of planning and preparation would have hitherto been necessary. Now, they can place a virtual reality headset over their eyes and away they go.
Walking around a simulated science museum, students may soon be able to attend lectures hosted by digitized speakers and roam freely, all without leaving the classroom. The invention of augmented reality provides a wealth of educational opportunities.
The End of Formal Education?
Until now, it has long been necessary for students to study for years, attain good grades and attend college if they wish to fulfill a particular vocation later in life. These ideals are being reimagined. The college degree is losing its hold over high-school graduates.
Many young people of today would prefer to pursue their educational interests with online courses and resources instead of forking out thousands on a diploma. Technological development underpins these decisions. Course platforms like Udemy and Khan Academy allow students to learn a wealth of information in less time than it takes to complete their degree. What would otherwise create decades of debt and 3-5 years of learning could soon require little more than a laptop and internet connection.
The rise of technology could facilitate the reshaping of formal education. Furthermore, high-school graduates may no longer need to uproot and move 300 miles to attend university. Courses could be accessed remotely. Seminars and lectures could be digitally accesses, allowing students to study from home in different cities. This would allow families with a lower household income to provide their children with degree-level education without spending on accommodation fees and travel costs.
Conclusions About the Future of Education
While possible, it is unlikely that educational institutes will crumble under the weight of technological advancements. However, in order to stay afloat, successful educators will certainly have to rethink their models of teaching entirely. The days of pen and paper are quickly dwindling into darkness.
To keep students engaged and interested in formal education, teaching strategies will have to match the progression of the digital world. Interactive whiteboards, computer clusters and smartphones are fast becoming an integral feature of the modern classroom. These methods underpin the rapid revolutionization of teaching methods.