Harnessing Technology in the Classroom
Classroom tech has evolved quickly since the first interactive whiteboard was invented in 1990. Now, truly smart whiteboards take pride of place in classrooms where blackboards once hung. Students use tablets instead of textbooks and virtual reality is being introduced into education.
All of this might feel a little overwhelming if your school has only introduced minimal technology or none at all. But it’s important to keep in mind that life after school usually involves technology in some form, and that introducing it at an earlier stage serves to prepare students for 21st-century life.
Not only that, but it expands your arsenal of tools to use when building lesson plans and teaching for different learning styles
Examples of EdTech
Technology in the classroom is often referred to as ‘EdTech’, meaning ‘Educational technology’. While the word ‘technology’ refers to anything that assists us with tasks, EdTech specifically relates to it in its digital forms.
RSOnline recently found that four in five teachers (79%) are using EdTech in almost every lesson, with the pandemic growing the sector by 72% in 2020. So it’s clearly popular, but what items are we actually talking about when we refer to EdTech?
The most popular examples of technology in the classroom include tablets and laptops. Tablets have started to take the place of desktops altogether in many cases, as they can connect to the internet and bluetooth keyboards — so serve the same functionality as computers while being incredibly portable.
Some of the ways in which these can be used include:
- homework platforms where teachers & students can manage & organise assignments
- quiz applications to assess knowledge after a lesson
- using the internet so students can do their own research on a given topic
- students creating PowerPoint presentations on a given topic
- sending out teacher presentations to students after class so they can revisit the information
- educational games for waiting periods
- as a notebook where students can take down notes.
The Benefits of Technology in the Classroom
Benefits for Students
One of the biggest benefits of EdTech is that it can aid in teaching for a variety of learning styles. We’re well past the days where students would spend the entire day listening to the teacher and writing notes. Let’s face it – there’s a certain point where notes become words on a page rather than learnings.
Learning has become a much more interactive process over the last decade or so, and it’s likely that your school already uses a whole host of teaching techniques. Whether it’s experiential learning or differentiation or gamified learning, there’s no single way to learn.
Technology can assist in creating that variety, helping both students and teachers to stay engaged.
For students specifically, EdTech can encourage a higher participation rate. Think, for example, of those pupils who are usually reluctant to join in with team games. With applications like Kahoot, they can join anonymously and still test their knowledge!
Gamified lessons and quizzes are also a great opportunity to enhance learning for those that finish tasks early and are at a loss for something to do. This is usually when distractions come in and students’ minds wander — instead, technology gives them something educational to hone in on.
Another huge advantage of EdTech is that it allows for students to process information in their own time – be it in the classroom or after school. If they want to revisit topics and make connections between concepts and facts, it’s much easier to do so via an online portal where all previous lessons are logged with presentations and learning materials. As a result, they’re more empowered to do research of their own accord.
Having information backed up to the cloud when using EdTech is another significant benefit. No more lost homework or notes!
Students should be able to organise their own files into a sensible structure so they can easily access their previous work and see their own progress. Again, accessing learning materials is also crucial and can be enabled via technology.
Benefits for Teachers
Of course, teachers will also benefit from all of the above advantages given to students.
But more specifically, EdTech can aid in lesson planning and delivery – be it talking through an online presentation, using educational applications, showing a helpful YouTube video on a topic, or showing students how to research a topic and find trustworthy information.
If EdTech enables teachers to monitor student progress, lesson plans can be tailored and personalised as a result so that no student is left behind. And as for the students that are excelling, teachers can feel more confident in arming them with the tools to take their learning even further.
While we sincerely hope that remote learning isn’t necessitated in future by something like another pandemic, getting to grips with EdTech now would allow for a smoother transition if needed.
The Disadvantage of Classroom Technology
There are, of course, a few disadvantages of classroom technology to consider, such as:
- the cost can be prohibitive
- it requires a great internet connection
- protective equipment is needed to ensure durability (eg iPad cases)
- it could potentially pose a distraction
- teacher reluctance due to lack of training.
Each of these factors need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some of these potential disadvantages can be dealt with fairly simply, though.
For example, school IT teams are able to put limits on certain apps (like quiz/gamified learning apps) and bans on others (like social media). These bans can be implemented via the technology itself, so that students are simply unable to use what are deemed to be distracting sites/apps on school devices.
As for teacher reluctance, it’s clear that training is necessary to reap the benefits of EdTech. As it stands 13.6% of teachers have never heard of EdTech, so there will be some gaps to bridge if your school is considering introducing it.
Schools should provide training so that teachers feel confident and happy with their ability to deliver technology-assisted lessons.
Improving the Quality of Learning
It’s safe to say that EdTech is already changing the educational landscape for the better, and has enormous potential for the future, too. With the rise in technology in our everyday lives, it only makes sense that we make the most of it in schools.
If you’re a teacher working on your own professional development, we’re here to help. Discover our areas of expertise here or visit our training page for details about upcoming courses and pre-recorded webinars.