Many schools have embraced technology as a panacea for some of the instructional and behavioral challenges they experience. After all, technology promised to make our lives easier. It even offered to entertain us while we worked and learned. As a result, misconceptions about the use of technology in the classroom arose.
Technology has changed how educators think about teaching and learning. Computers have made education dynamic, personalized, and readily available for those who have the infrastructure, hardware, and software. Providing that access and the training to use it has been a challenge for many schools.
Far too often, a school adopts new technology without getting input from those who will lead the use of it: the teachers. The school expects teachers to be digitally savvy experts who can navigate effortlessly between programs and apps. To be effective, teachers need a variety of supports, not only from IT but also in the way of ongoing professional development. Teachers also need time to familiarize themselves with new technology initiatives.
Too often, districts adopt new classroom technologies and abandon them within a few short years because they didn’t work.
The Promise of Tech
Incorporating technology in the classroom ought to create a dynamic experience between teachers and students. Personalized learning, instant messaging, student response systems, and multimedia can help to make subject matter both relevant and engaging.
If you’re differentiating instruction, you’re meeting kids where they are in the curriculum and moving them from that point forward. Teachers are well aware that every student begins at a different point and learns at a different rate. Technology can make differentiated instruction a classroom reality with learning apps and artificial intelligence that are like having a team of instructional assistants working side by side with the teacher.
Technology can facilitate learning in other ways, too. The internet has brought learners from around the world together in forums both formal and informal. Students everywhere can communicate and collaborate in ways not previously possible. Students with internet access have encyclopedias, thesauruses, and dictionaries immediately available to them, and they also have extensive opportunities to evaluate online sources for their accuracy.
Cloud computing has brought about further collaborative work in education. Students and teachers can access documents from one convenient location, using software as a service solutions designed to create a seamless and sustained interaction between users. Notably, cloud computing is more efficient and secure than other digital storage options.
With the many benefits technology has to offer, you might wonder why more schools aren’t incorporating it into every aspect of teaching and learning. After all, 97 percent of all schools in the United States have at least one computer in every classroom, and districts are spending $36 million a year on technology. So why isn’t technology in the classroom more effective?
We must remember that technology is a tool to enhance instruction. It’s not meant to be a replacement for teachers or for the quality instruction they provide in the classroom. When used to supplement and enhance lessons, technology becomes a powerful resource that promotes student achievement, especially when students are engaged in higher-order thinking skills.
Technology requires a significant commitment from school districts and educators. Schools must recognize that every new technology initiative includes a learning curve. Some teachers will adopt technology quickly, and others will need more time. Instructional technology requires maintenance as well.
Incorporating technology in the classroom takes two precious resources: money and time. Both are well spent when done right.
Matthew Lynch is an educational consultant and owner of Lynch Consulting Group, LLC. He is the author of the Education Week blog, “Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12.” He currently resides in Richmond, Va. He is a former K-12 social studies and special education teacher who now researches policy and education reform. He also is the owner and editor of The Edvocate (www.theedadvocate.org) and The Tech Edvocate (www.thetechedvocate.org).
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.