New Technology in the Classroom: Empowering Students and Teachers
District technology coordinators know that simply "having technology" goes wrong when it represents an end goal in and of itself. Like any other resource, new technology in the classroom can either collect dust on the virtual or physical shelf or powerfully impact teaching and learning. This article attempts to focus on and celebrate the latter.
New Technology in the Classroom Empowers Teachers to Provide More Personalized Learning
The rallying cry from the founding of the internet is that information wants to be free. Stewart Brand introduced us to the paradox that information also wants to be expensive due to its value. Despite the push and pull of these competing forces, the amount of free, high-quality content that is available digitally or online continues to grow, from Harvard to Stanford, and everything in between.
For teachers, this means that the paradigm continues to shift from having to serve as the sole content expert in a classroom toward the role of knowledge facilitator, pulling content (or, better yet, helping students to pull content) from many different sources in service to learning objectives. Teachers at all levels become more free to provide non-traditional experiences and individual coaching approaches for their students.
For students, increased access to quality, cost-free content cuts through socioeconomic barriers and can allow for academic, social, and emotional content to be tailored to their needs. A student might engage in a geometry lesson about the Pythagorean Theorem or learn more about a core competency of social emotional growth, such as self-management or responsible decision-making, all at the low cost of a WiFi connection.
Technology Empowers Students to Explore Threads of Interest Beyond the Classroom
Too often, new technology in the classroom is merely used as a direct substitute for the tools we have used for a hundred years. Changing the tools but not the learning does not positively impact student achievement. When the learning is altered to provide students with a choice of tools and ways to meet standards, a wider audience for their ideas, and enhanced opportunities for self-reflection, then you are unleashing the promise that technology brings.
Teachers are also supposed to expand students' horizons beyond the schoolhouse doors. In the past (and too often today!), this meant a costly and time-consuming field trip. Now, through worldwide social media, virtual reality experiences, and more, students can "go" anywhere and connect with almost anyone. Dedicated staff facilitators must help show students the way.
A practical example: A teacher could stand at the front of the room and lecture for several days about the causes of World War I and meet all applicable learning standards. When teachers truly empower students, they might encourage teams of students to select a cause that most interests them, allow them to research it, allow them to discuss and present their information using a method of their choosing - from a slide deck with a balance of text and graphics to a custom website or podcast, and everything in between - jigsawing with other groups and creating a class consensus that still addresses the standards.
Students could share their knowledge with a historian, other students who have visited the World War I museum in Kansas City, Missouri, or with pen pals in Europe. These options are real and achievable!
Technology Empowers Teachers to See What's Working
Today's data should drive the following day's instruction, and today's data is easier to gather than ever before thanks to technology. A typical "exit ticket"-style formative assessment on a half sheet of paper usually isn't graded, analyzed, and returned to students until the following day, let alone mined for patterns across a class or series of class populations. By having new technology in the classroom, like a learning management system (LMS), teachers can gather formative data with instantaneous results and provide analysis at a glance.
Thus, by the end of the lesson, teachers should be able to see where misunderstandings occurred during the lesson, provide immediate intervention, and to plan future lessons and strategies accordingly. No more waiting until the next day or later in the week to provide feedback or address learning gaps - why put off until tomorrow what new technology in the classroom allows you to do today?
Technology Empowers Students to Study Their Own Data
Remember that data belongs to the learner, not just the teacher! A survey of college students revealed that nearly 90 percent believed access to and analyzing their own data impacted their performance in a positive manner. An LMS will often allow the course instructor to release analytics to students, allowing them deep insight into achievement that goes beyond a sterile final letter grade. For example, a student could view their performance breakdown on a rubric, view their performance in relation to the class average, analyze work habits through a breakdown of time spent engaging with the LMS interface, and more. These are just some of the benefits of having new technology in the classroom.
Lauren Davis reminds us that students who are in control of their own data are empowered to set their own specific achievement goals and to track and reflect upon their own growth. Think of the power of moving from the outdated (and all-too-typical) teacher-student interaction of "you need to study harder for tests" to student-generated SMART goals that get results. When you find ways to put students in charge of their learning by relinquishing the systemic stranglehold on data, amazing things can happen.
Unleash the Beast
Students are ready. In fact, they are begging you to give them greater access to their own data and control of their own learning process. Fear may be standing in the way, but you can help teachers and other school personnel reject their inner Luddite and embrace empowerment through the strategic use of new devices and technologies in the classroom.
What do you think of implementing new technology in the classroom? Tweet us @Schoology and let us know!