Most K–12 public school teachers keep at least one computer in their classroom. But far beyond the reach of simple desktops, most teachers also report a variety of other tech devices at school—LCDs or projectors, digital cameras, and interactive whiteboards. But with the advent of in-class technology, and more and more options for teachers and administrators alike, the question must be asked: what are the pros and cons of having technology in the classroom?
What is classroom technology?
Classroom technology is the incorporation of technology into school classrooms, labs, lecture halls and auditoriums, for the benefit of supporting other learning and teaching initiatives. There are many types of classroom technology you may run across in today’s modern school, including:
- Whiteboards and interactive flat panels like Clear Touch or Promethean
- Desktops, Laptops and Tablets for quick access to apps and internet
- Projectors for class-wide discussion and demonstration
- Television the old standard, although losing ground to those with streaming capabilities
- 3D printing for creation of ideas
- Software and Applications to enable various forms of teaching and automation and support and supplement various forms of learning
Does classroom technology help students learn?
Although a few studies have been done, few have provided a vast-enough baseline. Additionally, because classroom technology is relatively new (within the past 20 years for even the oldest tools!) and it is hard to quantify the true impact of technology on overall retention. What is relatively agreed-upon, however, is that the use and implementation of the classroom technology plays a highly important role in the effectiveness of the technology in the learning environment.
For example, if a teacher is given an interactive flat panel—like the Clear Touch 6000K—but only uses it to put the morning’s schedule on, it’s questionable as to whether or not that technology is being used effectively. This is especially true when such a tool provides a vast amount of capabilities—from collaborative learning to online research, creative tools and apps, and so much more.
In short, the first step to ensuring that classroom technology is helping students learn and retain information is by ensuring that the technology is being used to its fullest potential.
Disadvantages of having technology in the classroom
While there are many advantages of adding tech to the classroom, the landscape has its own challenges. Here are a few disadvantages (or perceived disadvantages) of having in-class technology.
- Fighting distraction
While bringing technology into the classroom is intended to help guide students along in various studies, if left unregulated or unchecked, it can become a distraction. Consider a 1:1 system where 20 elementary students all their own tablets –– internet browsing will always win over studying for the upcoming quiz. In these cases, the use of parental locks or time where all tech is put-away may help keep everyone on task.
- Less social interaction
The digital vs. social debate has been going strong for a while now, but one main concern that many have with the addition of more technology to the classroom is that it will reduce social interaction. While this doesn’t have to be the case (as we’ve seen with products like multi-touch interactive screens), it still remains a question for parents and teachers alike. Teachers can address these concerns by the use of apps and tools that invite collaboration, as well as ideas like dedicated small-group time and screen sharing.
- Higher availability for cheating
With today’s tech-agile youth, the potential for information access is definitely higher, although in many cases also fully preventable. Most information these days can be encrypted and password-protected, and the use of monitoring software can be an added help to stretched administrators.
- More time in lesson planning
As teachers and administrators add more pieces of technology into their classroom mix, it stands to reason that at some point, tech fatigue will set in, especially if they are trying to use each piece to the fullest potential and capability. Keep in mind that having tech doesn’t just mean using it—it also means the teachers must learn each platform, troubleshoot it if necessary, input required data, and train students on how to use it, as well. Schools that implement these solutions can mitigate these challenges by spreading the responsibilities out—include IT and curriculum directors in the decision making—and the implementation—processes.
- Expense of outfitting schools
With any type of technology implementation, there is the overarching concern of “How do we pay for this?” Adding any kind of technology can be costly. To prevent buyer’s remorse, make sure you’re doing your homework, getting the best price and the right solution for your school or classroom.
Advantages to having technology in the classroom
For all the challenges that in-class tech can reveal, there are a number of great reasons why keeping our classrooms up-to-date with the best that tech has to offer is a great idea. Here are a few benefits to having technology in the classroom.
- Technology is more than a tool; it’s a life skill
Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and workforce, and in a modern world technology isn’t just a tool with which to work; it’s a life skill that is critical for everyone to understand. Even more, students who can master that overarching “understanding” of technology in general and adapt to whatever app or software is put in front of them, will be at the forefront of tomorrow’s businesses and organizations.
- No more out-of-date curriculums
Gone are the days of out-of-date history books or inheriting your dad’s old geometry text. With technology, the learning platforms aren’t just up to date, in many cases they are current up-to-the-minute. Additionally, there are a number of websites and software applications available that can offer lessons on current happenings for teachers and students.
- The world (and more) is at your fingertips
When it comes to information access, todays’ technology options offer far more than what you can learn in a book. As an example, students today don’t just learn about space flight—they can experience a flight simulator, break down a rocket engine, align the stars in space and even learn how to brush their teeth in anti-gravity—all without leaving the classroom.
- Better student engagement
While studies on this subject have been limited, one thing is clear: when learning is made fun, students are more engaged and more likely to learn and retain that information. By implementing technology—especially team-based tech and learning options—teachers can not only engage their students, but provide them a rich learning environment, as well.
- Make your job easier
While it can be true that more technology equals more time in for teachers, the reality is that there are a number of options (especially software and apps) that can make a teacher’s job easier, automotive, and more streamlined. Consider lesson planning software online, grading built into the lessons themselves, and much more.
Whether or not you’re personally for or against adding more technology to today’s classrooms, it’s worth exploring the options available. After you’ve had a chance to assess what your classroom (or school) needs, do the legwork and research the types of technology you might be able to use (hardware- and software-based). You might determine that bringing in something new is worth the small challenges it may take to implement it. And yes, it can be overwhelming, but we at Clear Touch are always here to help you along your path; schedule a demo with us to find out more about the solutions we offer.