Observe today’s students for long enough (likely not long at all), and you will find them interacting with technology in one way or another—whether it’s scrolling through social media on their smartphones, streaming their favorite YouTube channel on their tablets, researching on their laptops, or something else entirely. It doesn’t take long to draw the conclusion that today’s learners are different than past learners—and thus, they require different sorts of interaction.
It’s no longer enough for teachers to stand in front of a classroom and deliver information. Today, since technology plays such a major role in students’ lives, it must also play a role in education.
A number of teachers are confident in technology’s potential in the classroom. As reported for Education World:
“Not only does technology feature prominently on teachers’ back-to-school wish lists this year, but it is also held in high regard as an indispensable tool in the classroom, with 98 percent of teachers claiming technology helps them engage more with their students; 96 percent stating it helps their students engage more in class; and 97 percent saying that technology helps them accomplish more in the classroom overall.”
While that perspective is encouraging, there are still some teachers who view technology as a hindrance. In fact, according to a survey of more than 650 K-12 and higher education teachers done by Instructure, many educators feel that technology in the classroom can be more of a distraction than a teaching aid. Some of the disconnect between those who embrace technology and those who keep it at an arm’s length could be comfort level. If educators aren’t comfortable with technology, how can they leverage technology students who can’t remember a world without smartphones and social media?
So, will the non-believers become the believers? At some point, the path is clear; technology is here to stay, so teachers will need to seek a path to use it wisely. But, there is more to the equation than comfort level. School policies also present barriers. If technology is to work to a classroom’s advantage, teachers need to be able to creatively explore what that might look like for them, without worrying about extensive regulations and arbitrary impediments.
Essentially, teachers need to have the freedom to uncover how students like to learn—and which methods are most effective. Where might that type of investigation lead?
Tools: From 3-Ring Binders to Notebooks
In the past, students have gone practically everywhere with a 3-ring binder in tow. Considering how many assessments and general papers students have to keep track of, binders are often unorganized, heavy, and inefficient. Today, digital notebooks can up the ante for how students document lessons learned and take learning mechanisms on the go. Using cloud-based organization tools such as Microsoft OneNote, instead of composition books and reams of hole-punched papers, can help teachers avoid carrying big boxes of binders home for assessment and facilitate improved engagement, plus easier—and more flexible—student-student and student-teacher collaboration.
Methods: Modern Communication
Communication methods have changed; phones, letters—and even emails—no longer represent the the entirety of communication tools students need to master when they exit school and enter the workplace. Chris Wilder, a practice lead in cloud services and enterprise software at Moor Insights & Strategy, comments in an article for Forbes:
“Schools cannot ignore the fact that Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, iMessage, and Instagram have changed how millennials interact with peers, teachers, parents, etc. Teenagers care about consistent feedback, visuals, and pithy responses to their social networks. These students review, refresh, and make decisions within their networks by the hour and 140 characters at a time. As these content platforms evolve and become more intelligent, education must be more intelligent and adapt content to the student’s needs, consumption, and delivery models.”
Beyond the social trappings of millennials, these networks have also become the platforms for modern ecommerce and marketing. Indeed, some workplaces rely on social media as a key pillar of customer engagement and marketing, making it a valued tool—and skill—in today’s business world. Teachers can help mold students’ understanding to prepare them for greater success, personally and professionally.
Class Flow: Using Data for Direction
Technology’s presence in the classroom might not be new, but it is improving all of the time. PowerPoints and Interactive Whiteboards have been the standard for delivering information for over a decade, but how can technology’s growing capabilities better engage students and enhance direct instruction? Interactive content tools such as ClassFlow by Prometheank, a teaching platform that that makes planning interactive lessons easier through lesson and assessment building tools, ready-made lessons, built-in collaboration tools, and pre-made badges. .
Through polling and other applications, teachers can use technology to gather feedback, alter strategies, and bring classroom dynamics into the 21st century.
Resource Networks: The Key to Scale
As the tools change, so will teachers’ needs for access to new content beyond the file cabinet of worksheets and boxes of ancillaries provide by publishers. While teachers used to be solely responsible for creating their own supplemental resources, now there is a burgeoning marketplace where educators can share, or even sell and buy, what they’ve created. The marketplace exists in the form of many different online communities and apps. According to a recent EdSurge article called “A Marketplace for Teachers to Sell, Share, and Shine”:
“Millions of teachers are avid buyers and sellers in a booming number of marketplaces for teacher-made materials. A recent EdSurge survey identified 9 marketplaces where teachers can sell their creations. Another 6 allow them to share and download resources for free, or are open resources platforms. Together, those marketplaces list more than 26 million free or paid products and serve 15 million users—although some of the resources and users are part of more than one platform. (Marketplaces for education providers where teachers are not allowed to upload classroom materials were not considered.)”
There are many opportunities for educators to leverage students’ natural gravitation toward technology. Rather than trying to fit the tool to the student—or ignoring technology’s presence and potential altogether—educators should observe students. What insights are available regarding their preferences? What technology are they already using? How could available technology better engage, inform, and boost learners? To effectively teach students, it’s important for educators to be interested—and invested in—finding out how they learn best.
1. “Research: Teachers Say Tech Distractions more Concerning than Privacy, Security” Campus Technology. January 26 2016.
2. “Teachers Want More Tech in Their Classrooms” Education World. March 1 2016.
3. “Does Technology Aid Learning in the Classroom?” Tech Guru Daily. January 26 2016.
4. “TCEA 2016: Panelists Debate the Hottest K-12 Technologies” EdTech. February 5 2016.
5. “How The Education System Is Leveraging Innovation and Technology to Help Students Compete” Forbes. February 4 2016.
6. “5 Reasons Technology in the Classroom Engages Students” Secure Edge Networks.
7. “Socrative” MasteryConnect.
8. “Turning static content into digital lessons” eSchool News. February 10 2016.
9. “We Review ClassFlow: A Teacher Tool That Might Just Save Your Sanity” We are Teachers.
10. “A Marketplace for Teachers to Sell, Share, and Shine” EdSurge News. November 18, 2015.