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Reasons Technology is Important in Schools: The Digital Age in Classrooms

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 6/6/2012

What will classrooms in the next five years look like? The technology of today will be obsolete in a few years. Students need to learn how to utilize the latest technology to learn and to prepare for their futures. Educators need to focus on the importance of technology in school.

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    Technology in Education

    The importance of technology in schools is so evident in the 21st Century. Students who are not computer savvy will struggle in their future professions, as most jobs require some type of computer work.

    In the "Overview of Technology and Education Reform" on the Ed.gov website, researchers reported that "to be effective, technology and teachers must work together to provide challenging learning opportunities." Technology can become the catalyst for change to help students to use higher order thinking skills.

    Some are describing teachers as "digital immigrants" while their students are "digital natives." The reason being, teachers (the immigrants) need to learn the technological environment that the kids (digital natives) already "live in" and use to acquire knowledge on a daily basis. For an intriguing video clip which exemplifies the concept of digital immigrants and natives check out this slide show on teaching and learning with digital natives by, Steve C. Yuen, Ph.D. Further reading about digital natives is provided below.

    No Child Left Behind Title 11-D-1&2

    Sufficient support must be available to bring about change with technology. In the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Title II-D-1&2 - Enhancing Education Through Technology, there were provisions for technology to enhance learning because the current job market needs skilled workers in technology.

    Teacher preparation in technology and access to technology for students in poverty continually lags behind. Funds have been set aside for Educational Technology State Grants Program so that states can award low poverty schools money. Teachers who are not adequately trained in technology may not use the technology properly or may not use it at all.

    800px-Overton's Computer Lab: WikiMedia Commons 

    Problems with Currently Technology Use in the Classroom

    Gilbert Valdez, Ph.D. writes in the article "Technology: A Catalyst for Teaching and Learning in the Classroom," which is on the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory website that students who do not have access to technology are at a disadvantage. Access to the Internet seems to be available to both poor and wealthy school districts. However, the children from poverty do not have much access to technology outside of school.

    In addition, teachers need to have adequate training to teach students to use technology in the classroom. The teachers who are trained to teach students using technology can offer engaging lessons beyond completing research assignments on the Internet or presenting information in a PowerPowpoint slide presentation. Researchers would like to see improvement in the quality of instruction and learning in science and mathematics.

    A survey completed by Gabie E. Smith, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Elon University called the "Student Perceptions of Technology in the Classroom: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" found that in college classroom that teachers sometimes went too fast using technology, such as when using a PowerPoint presentation. Students sometimes need time to process the information and this is difficult when teachers fly through a slide presentations. In addition, some students felt that their instructors "hid behind the technology" and the classrooms became less personal.

    As new technology emerges that can engage the 21st century learner, teachers need to be trained and become proficient with the technology. New technology, such as the 3-D projector are constantly coming on the market making it important that teachers place a premium on the importance of technology in schools.

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    Effective Use of Technology in the Classroom

    Beyond the students' future, learning that is fun, hands-on and challenging will engage the student. The Internet has opened up so many avenues for teachers to teach content.

    Teaching in 3-D

    A new emerging technology in the classroom is using the multi-media 3-D projector. Students can be engaged with 3-D presentation in any subject area, such as seeds emerging from the ground and growing into a full plant to an event in history. Teachers can engage students while they wear their 3-D glasses and watch objects zoom throughout the classroom.

    Skype, Web quests & Google Apps

    For example, teacher can use Skype to allow a foreign language student speak with a person from that foreign country. Or, teachers can show students places through "virtual field trips" through Skype when field trip budgets are very tight.

    If teachers are somewhat unsure about using the Internet in the classroom, a web quest is an easy way to wade into using technology in the classroom or computer lab. A web quest teaches students to navigate the Internet and find good sources to learn more about content being studied. Web quests can be used in almost any content area and Brighthub has many example lessons.

    Another Internet application is allowing students to work on a project simultaneously through Google Apps. Google Apps are currently free for public schools. There is no software to install and no ads. In addition, there is a virtual teacher training site. Plus, there are security and privacy safeguards.

    White Boards and Clickers

    The SMART Board or interactive whiteboard gives teachers another tool to teach in the classroom. These boards are great for educational games. Games can be a fun way to review content or reinforce key information.

    The University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching suggests using clickers in a variety of ways in the article "Teaching with Clickers: Types of Activities." Instructors can use clickers in the classroom to assess students' prior knowledge, to start discussions on difficult topics, to administer quizzes and tests, to gather feedback on instruction and even to take attendance and/or to assess student participation.

    Wireless Technology in the Classroom

    The cost and room to house a computer lab is definitely a deterrent as school districts across the nations struggle to keep in the black. One option is wireless technology such as netbooks or iPads.

    These smaller electronic devices can do much of what a personal computer can do with less space and cost. A teacher who has a class set of either the netbooks or iPads never has to go to the computer lab or waste time going there. The iPad has many educational apps for the preschool learner all the way to high school students. The downside is that these items are smaller, and some students may try to take them without permission.

    Educational Apps

    For the iPod there are hundreds of apps. Some are free and other cost money to use. There are math apps to help tutor, give definitions for formulas or even to play Sudoku. Of course, there are apps for the language arts teacher that can help build vocabulary and improve spelling.

    As technology evolves, the importance of technology in education will grow too. Teachers not only need training on how to take their students into the future with the next technological invention, but also need to stay abreast and use this technology in their own lives in order to effectively use it in the classroom.

References

  • 3D Content in the Classroom: http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/10/01/wow-3d-content-awakens-the-classroom.aspx
  • Ed Tech Reform: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/overview.html
  • Clicker Activities: http://www.crlt.umich.edu/inst/clickeractivities.php
  • Google Apps in K-12: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/k12.html
  • Tech in Class by Teach-nology: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/techinclass/print.htm
  • Technology Methods: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te600.htm
  • Tech Standards for the Digital Age: http://www.iste.org/standards.aspx
  • Tools for Instructional Power: http://education.mit.edu/papers/GamesSimsSocNets_EdArcade.pdf
  • Photo by Overton2012 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • NCLB Reference: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/nclbreference/page_pg28.html
  • Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf