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The New Hi-Tech Classroom

In a world that is constantly developing more and more hi-tech solutions to make our lives easier, it’s no surprise that technology is playing a more important role in classrooms. In fact, the tools used in classrooms today are barely recognizable compared to the dusty chalkboards and spiral bound notebooks of decades past. It’s an exciting time in education, for both students and teachers. For insight into the topic, we talked to Christina Weiser, Managing Editor of School CIO Magazine and Tech & Learning Magazine as well as Sayed Khodier, Northwest Regional Campus Technology Manager of The Art Institutes.

As more technology is developed, administrators are finding creative ways to utilize them in the classroom. “Technology has become integrated in the classroom in so many ways. Instructional technology such as Smart Board, LED/LCD monitors, plasma displays, sound systems, and projectors are integral parts of general classrooms, says Khodier.

Besides the improved hardware and equipment, much of the technological learning solutions are due to specialized software and applications. “Tech has become less about the device (“bring your own tech/device is very popular right now, though there are network and management issues—as well as equity issues—that come with those initiatives) and more about the content,” says Weiser.

The applications and software are created to enhance learning with technology. There are literally thousands of different programs tailor-made for different subjects, like math, history, and English.

However, Weiser warns, technology does not improve learning. “Good pedagogy improves learning. Technology is means to an end that can be used very well, or poorly, depending on the accompanying pedagogy and facilitator.” Simply employing new technology in the classroom is not going to increase test scores. It’s about teaching students to use technology as another tool for learning.

There have definitely been some hurdles to getting technology into the classroom, and some drawbacks as well. Many schools are facing budget cuts and aren’t necessarily able to get the technology they want. Many of these schools have found solutions in less costly programs. “There are more options for free resources that can do similar tasks as comparable paid resources,” says Weiser. One approach has been to make the individual students responsible for providing their own device, like a computer or tablet device. However, there are obvious issues with this, as not all students would be able to afford this investment.

With more access to technology in the classroom, students also may be more likely to be distracted, especially if they have access to external social networking sites. The lack of control that teachers and administrators have over these sites can lead to questionable activities and matters of safety. Weiser explains that some schools find a solution to this by banning these external sites but allowing students to use “safe” and age-appropriate social networking tools like Edmodo and Gaggle.

The benefits that students reap in the classroom definitely seem to outweigh any downfalls. In a research project for the U.S. Department of Education, researchers found many positive effects of utilizing technology. Students were more likely to take an active role in the classroom. The roles of teacher and student changed so that instead of a teacher standing in front of a class and lecturing, students were able to participate more through various technological mediums.

Technological advancements such as online forums have also increased collaboration among students. This helps them learn how to function well in a group setting, share responsibilities, and become more socially confident. This kind of learning is more relevant to the “real world”, as adults often work in group settings and have to collaborate.

The study found that the most common benefit of technology, according to teachers, was increased motivation. They found that some kids who weren’t previously top performers in the class became better students with the help of technology. This shift seemed to indicate that working with a more interactive medium, like a computer program, provided the kids with the motivation they needed to excel. Learning to master the technology has also shown a marked improvement in many students’ self-esteem. They are able to learn new technology very quickly, and become proud of their capabilities.

There are many benefits to technology on a higher-education level as well. “Now students can learn from many online sources such as the e-reader, video conferencing, and even get a degree without tending ground school. These improvements could not happen without technology,” says Khodier. The availability of campus-wide wifi networks has made the students and the classrooms more mobile and access to resources easier.

In order to effectively execute all this new technology, there has to be someone who can collaborate with teachers and administrators to make sure the needs are met. “The traditional ‘librarian’ has become the media specialist, and this person is often the go-to source for information from research to lesson plans, to collaborating with other teachers and students,” says Weiser. This requires putting training programs in place so that librarians and other specialists can effectively manage technology.

Sources:

Christina Weiser, Managing Editor of School CIO Magazine and Tech & Learning Magazine

Sayed Khodier, Northwest Regional Campus Technology Manager of The Art Institutes

U.S. Department of Education, research study: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html

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