Take a look at any child, from age two or three onward and you’ll undoubtedly see him or her with a computer game, tablet or Smartphone in hand. This is the age of communication technology, and it’s not going away. In fact, the world will only increase its connectivity as time marches on.
Schools, too, are getting in on the technological revolution, albeit more slowly and clumsily than some would like. Students have no problem adapting to new technology – in fact, there are concerns about how such intense use of tech devices will affect them long term.
What the Research Tells Us About Tech and Teaching
There is some evidence that technology may actually be affecting the student brain, reports innovativepublichealth.org, citing a New York Times article that says the adolescent brain may be learning to expect distractions. This could certainly interfere with students’ ability to focus and require new ways of engaging them. It may also affect sleep and memory, but only time and research will prove that for sure.
Meanwhile, given the current technological landscape, it seems like a no-brainer to incorporate technology into today’s classrooms. It’s happening, but not always at the pace or in the ways that some tech experts would like. Often, students use laptops to take notes in class, and in some classes, clickers are available to allow instantaneous polls; nonetheless, a survey by the Education Week Research Centre indicates that technology is more often used to support traditional methods of instruction than as the centerpiece of a lesson.
Teachers and Technology
Education Week undertook a survey of teachers and their use of technology in 2015, as did Sprint. The results give us a window into technology in today’s elementary, junior high and high school classrooms.
According to Education Week, although teachers may not use digital technology is the most innovative ways, technology has taken root in classrooms and there is movement toward new uses for it. Teachers employ it for instructional games, research, group projects and individual projects, too.
They are willing to use technology—47 per cent say they are risk takers and early adopters, and another 24 per cent will try them before they become mainstream — but barriers exist. There may be a shortage of devices available in their schools; they may not have access to the proper training in incorporating devices into lessons; wireless connectivity is often lacking; and computer devices break down more often than they should.
Sprint’s “The State of Education Technology 2015” collected data from 173 district officials, principals, and teachers. Although it is a small sample, it highlights a major issue that has interfered with full integration of technology into the classroom: teacher training. Eight-six per cent of respondents indicated that more training in education technology is necessary.
“Adapting to entirely new devices and methods of teaching isn’t easy for a generation of teachers who aren’t digital natives, especially when structures are lacking to ease that transition,” the survey reported, according to meritalk.com.
Privacy Concerns About Technology in the Classroom
Forty-one per cent of the respondents said that their school districts didn’t have clear plans for effectively using technology in the classroom. Many also emphasized the need for their districts to create a group dedicated to supporting teachers in using technology properly during their classes.
It might also be wise to extend this group’s duties to ensuring privacy for students. Sprint’s survey indicated that some districts provide software vendors with information about individual students, including name, age and gender. Social security numbers are also provided in some areas, said 2.3 per cent of respondents. Meanwhile, 14.4 per cent of the parents involved in the survey said they weren’t apprised when their child’s information is given to a vendor.
“It isn’t enough to wait for lawmakers to craft updated privacy laws for student data use—schools and districts must be able to ensure compliance both with existing laws and the wishes of parents,” maintained the survey.
Value of Integrating Technology
Integrating technology into the classroom shouldn’t be optional, noted a recent study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They maintain that it is imperative for teachers to use technology to achieve educational goals. Otherwise, students will experience a disconnect between life as it is experienced in the world compared to how it unfolds in the classroom. The classroom must reflect the world in which they will grow up and become productive.
“Technology is here to stay,” says innovativepublichealth.org, and its use will continue to transform the world in which we live. Teachers “know that they need to help youth make sense of it and learn to use it creatively, effectively, and responsibly.”