What do you think the perfect classroom would look like? If you were asked this question 10 or 15 years ago, you might have said comfy chairs, big desks, a chalkboard and maybe even one computer. When we think about the perfect classroom now, we think of a technology filled room from Smart Boards to laptops and everything in between. Technology to students today is just like a dictionary or an atlas to students a decade or two ago; all are simply used as tools for learning in class. These technological tools can be very beneficial to students for learning and for making school more interesting. Technology can also benefit teachers, by making their jobs easier and by allowing them to focus more on every student’s needs. But these technologies can have a negative impact on students learning. So here is my question, is technology in the classroom actually beneficial? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Pros of Classroom Technology
Benefits for the Students
Technology is creating many opportunities for students, from learning more to having fun in class. With technology, students are able to learn so much more than if they were learning from a single textbook. Technology allows students to learn from many sources all over the world. An endless supply of information is at the tips of students’ fingers (typing anything in a search engine will allow students to learn about that subject). Also, students are able to learn in their own way at their own pace on specialized internet devices. This allows students to learn in the way that benefits them the most. Technology is making the students of today more intelligent than ever!
Moreover, teachers are able to take advantage of educational apps which trick younger students into learning even when they are playing or creating. Online learning games make students more comfortable with answering questions because even if they lose the game (get the wrong answer), they have the chance to try again, learning from their mistakes. Also, a lot of students learn better when doing activities rather than watching the activities be performed. Apps give hands-on students the opportunity to perform labs, tests and activities. Another benefit of apps is that most students are able to remember theory after performing an experiment or activity. An example is interactive online labs which get students more involved in the class and allow them to understand the material taught in the lectures much faster. After I do a chemistry lab, I easily remember the associated content which helps me when studying for a test.
Furthermore, I believe that technology is keeping learning fun and interesting for the students. The use of technological devices makes students excited about being in class. Students no longer see teachers as boring lecturers. As a result, students pay attention to their teachers and also respect them more. Let’s be honest, as students, we all know that if the teacher is boring, we are going to zone out or find something more interesting to do. I am guilty of putting my head down on the desk and sleeping in class during boring lectures. In high school, instead of listening to my teacher lecture, I would do my homework assignment for that night so that I could benefit from being in class. Kids and teenagers have short attention spans and if the teacher and the material are not interesting, we lose all motivation to focus in class.
Minorities and Students with Low Income Families
It is important that all students have access to technology in the learning process. The everything is becoming more technologically advanced and young kids need to learn how to function in this digital world. I believe that technology in classrooms is important because many students cannot afford to have technology at home.The world is very high-tech, from jobs to higher education, so students need to learn the ins and outs of technology while they are young in order to prepare them for the future.
It is important that students learn through technology not only for their futures but also because it is more interesting. Technology in schools has shown to increase student interest and decrease dropout rates. Learning through technology is especially important for minorities, who have a higher dropping out rate, because it sparks more interest, keeping them in school.
Students with Disability
When I talk about technology, I do not just mean computers; I also mean automatic doors or elevators for students with physical disabilities. If we want kids to learn, they need to be in class, and if getting to class is harder than the class itself, what is the point of going. I understand first-hand the difficulties of getting around school because I had knee surgery and was on crutches for 3 weeks. Luckily my school had an elevator so that I did not have to go up and down stairs all day. Furthermore, technology helps teachers reach all students no matter their disability. For students with disabilities, technology is very beneficial for note taking (whether the student uses voice recognition software or the teacher emails the student the notes), for blind students (textbook reading software) or for students with impaired hearing. When I was in elementary school, a boy in my class wore hearing aids and my school had a special microphone that would amplify the sound of the teacher’s voice in his hearing aids. Technology can also help kids with mental disabilities like Autism learn. Technology is breaking the barrier of learning impairments.
Benefits for the Teachers
I believe technology is very important in learning because it benefits not only the students but also the teachers. Teachers no longer have to carry around lots of books and notes because they are able to have everything on a laptop or iPad. Also, technology benefits teachers as they can easily plan and make lessons, access the curriculum and monitor students’ progress. Teachers can customize lessons for each student’s individual needs and learning type using apps like ActiveGrade, making them better at their jobs. Moreover, laptops and the internet allow teachers to make learning more interesting and interactive with videos, pictures and online activities.
The School for Digital Kids
A school open in 2009 called Quest to Learn which is based on game is like learning. The students have one big challenge or “mission” that they cannot solve at the start of the term. The students go through a 10 week program of smaller challenges, learning how to do things that build up to solving that “mission”. The quests get harder and harder as students accomplish the challenges because they are continuously developing their knowledge and skill. Students cannot move on from a quest without completing the level. Moreover, kids get to design games. Game design can help kids think deeper and more abstractly, and can increase their creativity.
The Smart Table
The Smart Table 442i is a new technology which allows collaborative multimedia learning for 8 students. It is a touch screen table that students are able to sit at and participate in one of the many pre-made activity packs. Or teachers can create their own lesson plan using the Smart Table Toolkit. This is proof that technology is making learning more fun, interactive and collaborative as well as making teachers jobs easier.
More Classroom Technologies
The article discusses 10 different tools that can help teachers make their teaching methods more efficient. Also, these technologies help students learn by making everything from class interaction to assignments easier. This article gives examples of how technology is improving education inside and outside of the classroom. I would recommend taking a look at this article because there are a lot of really cool technologies shown. It makes me wish I was still in elementary school because of all the technology students today have the opportunity to use. When I was in elementary school, I had very little access to technology (not that I am that old, but my school did not have the money to buy computers). Because of my lack of time spent on a computer, I am terrible at all things technology. I cannot even type properly (yes I am typing this blog with my 2 index fingers only)!
The Cons of Classroom Technology
Unfortunately, many schools do not have the funds to purchase technology and others are just unwilling to buy them. These new technologies can be very pricy. Teachers would have to be trained to operate these technologies which takes time and cost schools more money. Also, with new technologies coming out on a regular basis, it can be very expensive for schools to remain current. And schools are spending so much money on technology, that they do not have enough money for necessities like desks, paper and pencils.
Inexperience with Technology
What students find online might not be appropriate or correct information if they do not know how to properly use the internet. For example, a group of grade 5 student wanted to know if they could put a picture of a so-called “Sasquatch penis bone” that they found online in the science fair. Teachers will need to spend time with students to teach them how to use the internet properly. If they do not do this, the internet will not be beneficial to kids.
Furthermore, some teachers do not know how use technology to benefit students. They tend to avoid technology in general because they are aware that some things you find on the internet can be disruptive. If teachers were taught in teachers college or in training courses how to us technology properly, it would be more beneficial to students. Unfortunately, teachers have not learned how to use technology in teachers college and school boards are not paying for technology training programs. Also, untrained teachers can easily become confused when trying to use the technology, which negatively affects the students by either wasting their time or by confusing the students too.
The Distraction Factor
The major downside to technology in the classroom would be the distraction factor. With the wide variety of websites on the internet, kids are able to google anything to avoid paying attention in class. These distractions can inhibit students from learning and can seriously affect their academic performance. If I have my laptop open or my phone out during class, I have no clue what my prof is talking about. And I am a University student (at this point, my education actually matters)! Imagine how distracted elementary and high school student would get, knowing that their education has not started to become important yet.
Yes schools are getting praise for how innovative they are for having technology in their classrooms, but are the students really benefiting from it all? In some schools, students’ tests scores have been increasing, but in others there have been no improvements. Teachers are letting technology take over the entire curriculum. Teachers are putting too much emphasis on digital skills and are not spending enough time on the basics like math, reading and writing. This all comes down to knowing how and when to use technology.
There are more pros to technology in classrooms than cons. But the cons would need to be fixed in order for technology is classrooms to truly be beneficial. Governments need to give more funding to school so that they can purchase the necessary technologies. Teachers also need to be trained in using technology. Unfortunately, the distraction factor will always exists, so all teachers can do is make their lessons as interesting as possible. Lastly, teachers need to learn how and when to use technology.
How and When to Use Technology
I think almost everyone, including myself, can agree that technology in classrooms is beneficial to a certain extent. One of the big reasons for this is that low-income families do not have the means to purchase tech gadgets for the home, so it is important that schools allow students the access to technology. The real question is how much technology is beneficial? The idea of students bringing their own laptops or tablets to class may make other students uncomfortable because they cannot afford new technologies for themselves. I can relate to this because in high school, I did not have a laptop, tablet or smartphone. So when kids brought them to class to do work, it made me feel inferior to them because I could not afford anything high-tech. In my opinion, students should not bring their personal gadgets to class. I think that schools should provide the appropriate technologies to students and nothing more. There are exceptions like for students with disabilities who should bring the technologies they need to facilitate their learning.
Moreover, it is important for both the teachers and students to know how to use technology as an educational asset and not just see an iPad or laptop as interesting and expensive gimmicks. If used properly, technology has been proven to engage students as well as improve intellectual skills like reading and problem solving. And to use these devices properly, teachers will need to be trained. Professors and graduate students from Harvard believe that future teachers need to understand technology and learn how to apply it to education. Harvard actually holds seminars on how to use technology in the classroom in many different ways for current faculty and staff as well as graduate students.
Furthermore, technologies allow choice and diversity in teaching which promotes positive development in students. But this positive development does not come from simply using technology; it comes from using it well. Just because a teacher has technology in the classroom does not mean that students will learn to use the technology properly for their benefit. Teachers need to plan what technology is used to ensure everything is educational.
Tips for Using Technology Properly in the Classroom
- Technology should be used for more creative activities, no just as a digital worksheet.
- Technology should be used for a purpose, not just to keep students busy.
- Technology should be used for new things you cannot do on paper or on the chalkboard.
- Technology should be used to access information you cannot get from a book (videos, pictures, information from all over the world – Teachers, you have no excuse to not have the appropriate resources!)
- Technology should be used for doing things in more efficient ways (online books reading apps instead of CD’s or cassettes)
- Technology should be used for sharing and learning (students are able to get support from family and friends)
- Technology should be used to connect with other classes and resources (through Skype, Twitter and blogs for example)
- Technology should be used to create choice (all students are different – options create customized learning for each student so they can learn in the most effective way possible)
Technology in the classroom has many benefits for students as they learn in interesting, interactive and personalized ways. Technology also has consequences because of teachers not knowing how to use it properly. Moreover, technology causes lots of distractions for students, affecting their learning. Unfortunately teachers cannot do much to stop kids from getting distracted, but they can be taught how to use technology properly. With a little work by teachers, technology in classrooms can be an excellent resource. Now it is up to schools to start introducing these tech gadgets to the class if they want to ensure that their students learn properly to benefit their futures.