Today’s students have been surrounded by the internet their entire lives, made even more available over the past decade through the introduction and widespread use of smartphones. Many educators have begun to utilize new technology in class, from interactive whiteboards to EdTech apps designed for a modern classroom. So how do teachers balance the constant influx of new technologies while ensuring students receive the proper level education? Several teachers from across the country have provided their experiences with education technology.
The modern classroom
EdTech has changed just over the past few years as smartphones have become more commonplace. Julia, a high school physics teacher in Tennessee, suggests that new EdTech software needs to be available to students on their phone, as many students cannot (or choose not to) use computers. At the same time, as smartphones have only recently become acceptable tools in some schools, Julia notes that educators as a whole need to determine how to enforce appropriate smartphone use in the modern classroom. Constant smartphone operation is a relatively recent phenomenon and introduces a new balance that teachers need to find, especially while trying to accept and even encourage the use of new EdTech tools in the classroom.
Finding the right tools
While virtually all students come to class with a smartphone, Kathleen, a high school math teacher in Georgia, has found that these personal smartphones often cause more setbacks than lead to progress. Individual smartphone issues often make personal devices unreliable, so the class tends to rely on school laptops and tablets -- when they can get them. Having to share the available hardware with other classrooms means that Kathleen’s class uses EdTech tools far less often than she would prefer.
Kathleen has found several EdTech applications to be an excellent break for students from the typical textbook curriculum. There are several online tools for classroom math quizzes and games that she utilizes in class to keep students engaged. However, she has found that most EdTech apps and tools are geared toward younger students, leaving more advanced students with less interesting options, despite their own interest in using fun tech tools.
Constantly changing technology
As quickly as technology is changing, it is difficult for schools to keep up with the newest EdTech trends. Linda, a retired schoolteacher in Southern California, notes that schools are constantly trying to keep up with the latest technology despite insufficient resources. Upon her retirement three years ago, her school didn’t even have WiFi, a luxury most people have come to expect from every office, coffee shop, and park bench they encounter.
Even more difficult than keeping up with modern education applications is having the most recent and efficient hardware available. Only in the past few decades have schools begun to see desktops, laptops, and tablets enter the classroom. As schools attempt to stay on top of new tech trends, most find that they simply do not have the funds to have a computer or tablet available to each student.
Different learning styles and environments
Not all students learn the same way, and not all students will respond the same way to the same technology. What works well in one classroom may work very differently in another, and oftentimes educators have to experiment with different tools before they find one that works.
What happens when a school has access to new technology, but the students simply refuse to respond to it? Charlene, an elementary school teacher in a low-income area, notes that while the school has access to a multitouch table, the students lack the discipline to use the tools properly and often mistreat the technology. Discipline concerns in the classroom are not diagnosable or curable with a new app. Ultimately, it is up to the teacher to assess and decide whether a new educational tool will be productive in the classroom.
When it works, it’s wonderful
When student learning and the proper technology click, the result is excellent. Brittany, a 1st grade student teacher, observed a significant difference between video instruction and her own speaking to the class. The students would slowly begin to disengage over the course of a lecture given by the teacher, but as soon as a video lecture came on covering the same subject, the students would instantly become and remain engaged. Brittany witnessed the same excitement when iPads were brought into the classroom; the students would light up at the prospect of getting to use educational apps in class.
What you can do to help
Computers are not always available to students in the classroom, but there are several ways you can get involved to help bring technology to schools. You know all those old laptops, tablets, and other gadgets you have lying around that you know you’ll never use again? You can donate those to schools! You can do a quick Google search to find an organization in your community that will accept your donations. I found Computers with Causes, who will donate your old gadgets to schools, libraries, or other organizations in need.
Finding the right balance
Since many of the most commonly used EdTech tools are so new, today’s teachers face the challenge of pioneering this new way of teaching in the classroom. Each of these educators continues to work technology into their lessons as they strive to find that ideal balance of teaching and technology in the classroom. Used correctly, technology designed for the classroom can be truly beneficial for student success.