Technology has grown exponentially over the past 25 years from the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991 to about 90 percent of Americans owning a cell phone in 2014. The education system, however, has evolved at a slower pace than the country at large for a variety of reasons that include cost, educator reluctance, and a lack of understanding of proper use.
Educators are beginning to realize that using technology in schools isn’t limited to throwing gadgets at students and expecting them to improve. It is actually the opposite. As 2015 progresses, technology is evening the playing field for students nationwide as more schools adopt new, technology-driven practices.
Unique learning styles — visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic — shape how each person ingests information, meaning a lecture-style classroom doesn’t work for many students. The flipped classroom allows teachers to assign lectures as homework through tools such as online videos or podcasts and create a more personalized learning experience during scheduled class time.
This concept gives students the opportunity to work out problems with a teacher and engage in hands-on activities during class instead of simply listening to lectures and taking notes. Students with varying learning styles absorb more information and retain it for longer periods of time.
Better Student Evaluations
Class sizes have grown so large that teachers have difficulty offering extended one-on-one attention to struggling students. Programs and device applications have started to provide a shortcut to targeting problem areas. Non-profits such as CFY offer student- or teacher-led individualized curriculum that not only caters to unique learning style, but troubleshoots and responds to problems as the student navigates through the application.
Opportunity for Low-Income Areas
Government-funded grants through Ed-Tech programs are providing access and technology to rural and poor urban areas across the country. Without access to computers and high-speed Internet connections at school and at home, students in these areas miss out on information on college admissions and scholarships, access to online courses and job applications, and research materials and study guides for current classes. Public funding is providing high-speed Internet to schools and within entire communities, allowing students in these under-funded areas to enjoy the same opportunities as those in wealthier areas.
Just as smartphones have allowed access to work email long after the day is through, online curriculum and communication methods allow for ’round-the-clock learning. Social media, email, and other forums give students after-school access to teachers and class information. Students are also taking advantage of online courses, both during the school year and within the summer months.
Empowering Teachers to Teach
Technology is a huge resource for teachers if used properly, and not just as a teaching method within the classroom. Digital applications allow for more efficient grading, evaluation of students, and the development of lesson plans. Applications available for both iOS and Android devices give teachers everything from searchable access of Common Core Standards to a clickable whiteboard application that projects to students’ individual tablets that can be accessed anytime and anywhere.
With these resources and a reliable network, teachers can spend less time attending to clerical work and more time focusing on engaging each student and his or her individual needs. These applications aren’t always available across all platforms, but teachers can stay current with iOS applications using the iPhone and a trustworthy carrier.
Technology is allowing both students and teachers to access any and all human resources around the globe. Schools can actually offer online classes to give students access to certain subjects despite the fact that none of their teachers can teach it. Teachers can see other instructors’ best practices in classrooms throughout the country and can offer lecturers to their students through Skype or YouTube. It’s an unlimited amount of information that is changing the face of modern learning.
As schools across the country continue to evolve, the goal should be optimized learning for each individual student through flipped classrooms, online learning, student evaluation through applications, and empowering teachers to be their best selves. Technology in and out of the classroom is not something to be feared by teachers, parents, and administrators, but to be embraced as the quality tool that it is.
Image via Flickr by A&M-Commerce