Technology in education mirrors the fast-paced world we live in. In modern classrooms, it’s rare to find students all working on the same exact activity. Instead, today’s schools are technology-rich learning spaces that promote diverse activity. They’re abuzz with collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication, all thanks to technology.
Ask an administrator about using technology in the workplace, and you might hear about edtech as a tool for going about the business of school. Technology facilitates scheduling, coordinates services, tracks students and teachers, and helps with data gathering and analysis. Digital devices and apps make previously unwieldy administrative tasks easier.
Teachers, however, see technology in education differently. Edtech is a necessary tool in modern classrooms, but not just for the teachers themselves. Technology has become an invaluable instrument for students. It supports the learning process by engaging students in interactive lessons that delve deep into content and require problem-solving skills.
Of course, there’s a lot more to technology integration than installing a few rows of computers in a lab. Even having the obligatory two or three stand-alone desktops at the back of the classroom doesn’t invite tech integration. We want students to use edtech as a tool that continuously supports their learning.
Technology integration is most effective in education when it’s mobile and versatile. In the hands of students, technology becomes an inseparable part of the learning process.
Why is it important to integrate technology into the classroom?
Education requires a lot from teachers. They not only teach content but also juggle (and model) a host of other skills while trying to get their students to fall in love with learning and to be successful at it.
A single day in the classroom consists of taking attendance, teaching academic content and positive behavior, empathizing with students, looking out for their emotional and physical well-being, reporting grades, and more. Amid all of that, teachers must guide students in becoming self-directed learners who can work independently and think for themselves.
The four Cs
Teachers triumph when their students master what the National Education Association (NEA) calls the “Four Cs”:
- Critical thinking
These four skills ensure the likelihood of learner success, now and in the future. Those who can work in teams and communicate effectively while solving problems are more likely to succeed in the modern workforce.
So how does the already overburdened teacher pull off a challenge like this? With integrated technology!
Classrooms that immerse students in technology are more likely to produce learners who are competent in all four Cs. Integrated technology enhances learning by facilitating discussion and group work. Collective problem-solving requires critical thinking and creativity.
Developing 21st-century skills
Some classrooms are neither equipped nor prepared to incorporate technology. Learners either have limited access to tech or are unable to use the devices to their fullest potential. Students lacking continuous connectivity may find themselves left behind. Without integrated technology, they will not build competency in skills that are necessary for enduring success.
- Personal and social responsibility
- Planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
- Strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs
- Cross-cultural understanding
- Visualization and decision-making
- An understanding of how and when to use technology, and how to choose the most appropriate tool for the task at hand
Knowing how to solve problems, build rapport, and communicate clearly are all important skills that have always been in high demand. Without knowing how to use these skills, adults who complete school to enter the workforce may find that they’re simply not competitive. Only articulate, creative thinkers will find themselves staying ahead of technology — and employed.
Integrating technology into education assists students in building the competencies they need for the future. Therefore, it should be a basic requirement in all classrooms. Have you wondered just how effective technology is when integrated into learning environments?
Improving learning with technology integration
Integrated education technology improves academic achievement, but only when done right. For that to happen, the technology must be pedagogically aligned.
According to the Brookings Institute, tech integration also requires “real-time use, personalized instruction, and mastery-based progression.” In essence, classroom teachers must use technology with deliberate skill and purpose in the classroom. Technology allows teachers to customize learning and create varying levels of scaffolded support rather than to merely deliver a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction.
4 initiatives to expand technology access
1. Give your students one-to-one access to technology.
Not every student needs a desktop computer, but every learner needs a digital device to stay engaged in the lesson. Incorporate polls to check for understanding and hashtags to summarize content. Active learning promotes better retention.
2. Provide opportunities for your students to go beyond the curated lesson.
You’ve selected the lessons your students need, but now it’s time to encourage creativity and innovation. Encourage the learners in your classroom to create their own content and share it with others — in class, across the school, and beyond the boundaries of the campus. As part of the communication process, teach how to give and receive feedback.
3. Optimize your class time.
Try using a blended learning environment, and give students the support they need through technology interaction. Ask your students to preview materials before class so they can use edtech in your learning space. Not all of your students will have technology access at home, so make the most of the time you have together.
4. Prioritize having a robust internet connection.
Slow connections frustrate students and teachers alike. Highways are meant for fast travel — so is the internet. With a strong network connection, you can ensure that all of your students have instant access to the Web, regardless of what devices they’re using.
Try it in your classroom
You can help your students improve their critical thinking skills and achieve greater academic performance. If you’re concerned about teaching your students the skills they need for the future, try using technology in your classroom.
However, keep in mind that technology integration is for every classroom. You’ll see a higher success rate among your students if there’s schoolwide support for such an initiative.
Photo credit: Pixabay/pexels.com