Children are the future, as the saying goes, so do we really want the future to be taught using tools from the past? While some schools are still using technology that better belongs in the 20th century, others are embracing innovation and teaching in ways that better translate to the “real world.” Let’s take a look at how our evolving technology is transforming the classroom and explore some ways to get it to more students.
The Classroom Today
Not unlike today’s workplace, classrooms are becoming increasingly technology-centric. This shift has made it so that teachers have had to adjust their teaching methods the most they’ve had to in decades. Fortunately, today’s students are optimally prepared for their role as guinea pigs for this new approach, thanks to their upbringing surrounded by social media and ubiquitous technology utilization. While many have called out social media and similar platforms as detrimental to a student, it cannot be denied that leveraging technology in the classroom now only makes sense.
One strategy that teachers are experimenting with is known as ‘flipped learning,’ because the way time has been traditionally spent is reversed. Rather than learning the material in school and practicing individually at home, students are tasked with reviewing materials at home (including online lectures) before coming into the classroom to collaborate with their classmates to complete what would have once been homework. This enables students to cultivate skills that will prove invaluable as an adult, skills like group problem solving, communication, and other practical abilities. Another benefit is how this approach also allows teachers to better assist their students in learning challenging subjects, as the students have access to their teacher’s help as they work, rather than trying to figure things out at home without assistance and ultimately frustrating themselves.
Of course, this can be a pretty big jump for a school to take. Fortunately, there is another option called ‘blended learning,’ in which face-to-face teaching and learning is augmented with supplemental technology-based assignments. This means that students can get more value out of in-class lectures and solo assignments by using the resources they have to find answers and discover new concepts. As a result, they will be more used to the technology that is being used in an increasing number of industries.
New Technologies for Students to Leverage
There is no shortage of technologies that the modern classroom could potentially leverage as the students within are being taught to make use of the technology at their disposal. For example, the typical whiteboard has been rendered ineffective with the advent and spread of the smartboard. If you aren’t familiar, a smartboard can effectively be summed up as a computer-connected whiteboard with improved and immersive multi-touch capabilities. This allows the teacher to deliver a lecture with more dynamics than the typical projector can, and this lecture can be saved for future reference. Furthermore, the smartboard can also be mirrored to any computer with an Internet connection, giving students another opportunity to follow along, regardless of where they are.
Smart tables run in a similar vein. Wi-Fi connected and topped with a multi-touch point touchscreen, smart tables are rising in popularity among educators, especially those that deal with younger kids. The table’s accessibility makes it a great hands-on learning tool for these young learners.
It also looks as though virtual and augmented reality, powered by specialized glasses, will become key tools for students to use while learning. While there is a lot of progress with these technologies that has yet to be made, the benefits that they could bring students are already clear. This is especially the case where AR is concerned, as the superimposition of a digital display over real life creates the opportunity to turn conceptually-based education more practical. On an even more basic level, we already have mobile applications that can take students through coursework from a variety of subjects.
Keeping These Tools Secure
Unfortunately, properly putting these devices and techniques into practice will take more than just installing the requisite devices into the classrooms. School administration and the educators who will be using the technology must themselves be taught how to do so safely, with the necessary security measures all put in place. Otherwise, the large amount of sensitive information a school holds could be put at risk, a student or member of the faculty finding their identity to be stolen or their personal privacy violated. To avoid this, schools need to communicate with IT experts with the skill and knowledge to implement the security systems that will protect from threats.
Acquiring the Technology
It is no secret that many public schools often lack the budget to make a considerable difference with technology. Tax increases aren’t commonly suggested for the sake of innovating classrooms, and it isn’t as though teachers can buy this technology out-of-pocket like they so often do with other necessary supplies - spending an average of $600 per year. Due to these funding restrictions, many teachers are resorting to alternative means to collect the needed capital. Crowdsourcing efforts have become popular, educators leveraging platforms like DonorsChoose.org, a teacher’s creation that allows for fundraising in order to purchase school supplies and the technology is entails today.
Social media has also helped many teachers gain the materials they need. For instance, Reddit does a gift exchange for teachers, and other organizations also follow similar routes. Another organization, Digital Wish, gives teachers a place to purchase technology and software that has been donated to the cause. The website also allows donations to be added to the educators’ accounts so that they might feel a bit of relief when their purchase total comes up.
Traditionally, one would also write to their representative in Congress, but it may be more effective to turn to Adopt a Classroom instead. This foundation was set up to help out those teachers who invest so much money into their students’ success. For more information, visit adoptaclassroom.org and see what you can do.
Technology is developing very quickly, and education needs to keep pace with this development in order to best prepare those who come after us to take up the torch. Can you think of any other technologies used in classrooms today that you didn’t have? Share them with us in the comments!