Technology in the Classroom: Benefits & Challenges
Image courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine
My recent conversation with Chani Barton brought to light some thought-provoking insights into the benefits and challenges of technology in the classroom. Chani holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Tarleton State University and a Master of Science Degree in Educational Technology from Johns Hopkins University. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and an Apple Teacher. Chani has worked in public education for over 20 years and partners with educators to facilitate the effective integration of technology with traditional instructional practices.
Annemiek: What are the benefits of technology in the classroom, both for the students and the teacher? And the challenges?
Chani: A significant benefit of using technology in the classroom is the opportunity that it provides for differentiation. This is a positive for both the student and the teacher.
On the teacher's behalf, differentiating lessons with technology is much easier and more time-efficient. By definition, differentiation is changing the content, process, product, or learning environment. Using technology facilitates each of these. Teachers can quickly and easily change versions of an assessment that is given on a Google Form, for example. They can include technology to provide choices to students for the products that are created. Through the use of online tools, teachers can efficiently grade different types of assignments.
For the students, differentiation with technology is beneficial because it provides opportunities for the student to learn in a manner that is most helpful to them. Technology allows students to engage with simulations that help with science or math concepts, it can provide them with opportunities to explore museums from around the world that deepen their understanding of literary works and historical events.
When used correctly, technology in the classroom can be an extremely powerful tool to facilitate learning.
There are, however, a number of challenges with using technology in the classroom. One of these is management. For technology to be an effective learning tool, it needs to be seen as such. Students must learn the importance of their digital identity and how to be mindful of the effects of their actions. Teachers reinforce this significance regularly. It is definitely a challenge to provide a device that accesses the internet and provides the benefit of being a useful learning tool while avoiding access to inappropriate content, data mining, or over-exposure.
Annemiek: Should technology be part of an optimized classroom experience for all students?
Chani: Technology should be a part of an optimized classroom when used meaningfully. To clarify, the use of technology should be blended in with other learning experiences. Technology is not the answer to all things. Instead, it should be thought of as one more "tool" in a teacher's "toolbelt" for providing learning opportunities for students. The amount of time and type of activity that is done with technology should be developmentally appropriate. Coming back to the idea of technology facilitating differentiation, since children develop at different speeds, the type of activity and amount of time spent using technology could look quite different among students within a single classroom.
Annemiek: What unique and creative uses of technology have you supported in a classroom setting?
Chani: Some really terrific lessons that I have experienced include platforms that allow for interactive elements that students can participate in during the lesson. Using these platforms, the teacher transitions seamlessly from whole-group, direct instruction to independent practice or collaborative group work and back again. The lesson is scaffolded to increase in difficulty while incorporating different gamification opportunities. The lesson concludes with a post-assessment or exit ticket. Transitions between using traditional paper and pencil and using technology also occur throughout the lesson. The pacing is varied, there are a variety of ways that information is presented and a variety of ways in which each student can engage with the learning.
Annemiek: What does the future of technologically integrated classrooms look like?
Chani: In a perfect world, technologically integrated classrooms would be dynamic spaces that contain many different opportunities for students to engage with the learning. For example, a classroom would have open space on the floor for collaborative work using robots or other programming tools, flexible seating that can easily be moved depending on the lesson, and a few desktop computers. Students would have access to laptops/iPads, digital cameras, and interactive whiteboards. Reading spaces that have physical books and headphones would be available. The space would be designed with flexibility as the key. Counter space would be included to allow for experiments, and shelving would be needed for storage of materials and showcasing student products. This idea, of course, would also require a curriculum that supports the integration of technology with traditional subjects.
Annemiek: Thank you, Chani. We are grateful for your time and expertise.
Annemiek Young is an Independent Educational Consultant based in Philadelphia. Once the Director of Lower School Admissions at The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and formerly Director of Admission and Enrollment Management at Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Annemiek has more than a decade of experience in guiding families through the complexities of understanding a school’s curriculum, community, and program. She has worked with families from all around the world, offering them a framework with which to assess school options as they navigate an unfamiliar education system and determine which setting would be optimal for their child. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University School of Law, Annemiek completed her final year of law school at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and most recently has been accepted as an IECA associate member.
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.