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How technology
in the classroom
can help advance
learning

Author: Rose de Fremery

School districts in the United States used 1,449 different digital tools per month during the 2020-2021 academic year. With so many digital options available, education leaders may find it difficult to know which classroom technologies will make a meaningful difference. Here's a look at some of the most effective technologies available today and how using technology in the classroom can advance learning opportunities.

The benefits of technology in the classroom

The importance of technology in developing modern literacy and other skills has been well established at a global level. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says, "Literacy in the 21st century is about constructing and validating knowledge. Digital technologies have enabled the spread of all kinds of information, displacing traditional formats of usually more carefully curated information such as encyclopedias and newspapers." Its influential Programme for International Student Assessment measures 15-year-olds' ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. The most recent assessment was specifically devised to measure how students "are developing reading skills to navigate the technology-rich 21st century."

Educational technology can benefit classroom activities in several ways, from helping students access easy video instructions to immersive virtual experiences that spark their curiosity. For example, teachers can set up tablets in various stations throughout the classroom enabling students to watch video clips of prerecorded instructions or presentations while working on an activity. This way, students can double-check to make sure they fully understand how to carry out a specific task without having to flag down the teacher or pore through lengthy written instructions.

Technology can also reduce or remove some of the learning barriers posed by location or level of resources, enabling forms of communication and collaboration unimaginable in the past. Access to technology can also ignite interest in STEM careers and give students the opportunity to become lifelong learners, creators and problem solvers.

Technology for K-12 classrooms

A number of factors go into deciding whether to use a particular technology in the classroom, including cost (both in terms of price and time), availability and accessibility of the technology, and level of teacher comfort in using it. When assessing from a pedagogical viewpoint, it's important to remember technology is always a tool best used to enhance the lesson not replace it. This could happen by:

  • Offering access to practical experiences or context
  • Giving students agency in their learning
  • Providing an opportunity for peer engagement
  • Teaching how to use new technology

To show how this can be done, consider technology in the classroom such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and smartboards.

Augmented reality

AR, which enhances real-world classrooms with digital objects, can infuse otherwise static classroom environments with novel experiences that are as engaging as they are educational. Students can use AR apps to interact how they see fit with a particular object or artifact—for example, a fossil or a gemstone—and, in the process of manipulating it, discover more about its nature. Because AR is inherently versatile, educators can use it to bring otherwise distant concepts such as astronomy or history closer or just make them more tactile and accessible.

Virtual reality

VR can take this principle a step further, opening the door to an immersive environment in which students can learn from experts—for example, world-renowned physicists—who they might not otherwise be able to visit with as easily in real life. Rather than listening to a lecture or reading a long text about a topic, they can instead experience it directly alongside their classmates, learning as they go. Not only does this technology make it possible for students to virtually travel to far-flung locations or meet with people all over the world, but it also gives them a strong foundation in emerging technology that will benefit them well into the future.

Smartboards

Smartboards can also help educators make lessons more interesting and entertaining. A smartboard is ideal for visual learners because it can display images or videos as needed. It can also be used as a touch screen, allowing students to directly engage with objects on the board or write on it using their fingers. Students can also engage with a smartboard using their tablets, so they don't all have to come up to the board at once.

How technology integration can keep students and teachers engaged

Getting students excited about a lesson can be challenging, especially in a classroom that doesn't appear to change much from day to day. When thoughtfully applied, technology can enhance student engagement both during and after a lesson. Classroom technology often shines brightest when it's meeting a specific need. If students report they didn't understand a point during the lesson or something about the homework assignment didn't click, then that might present an opportunity for using technology in the classroom.

Students from schools involved in Verizon's Innovative Learning program were not only more engaged but also increased their STEM proficiency as compared to non-Verizon Innovative Learning schools.

Engagement can also be impacted by how comfortable someone is with using technology in the classroom. This extends not only to students but also to parents and teachers, some of who may not be comfortable using technology. As always, appropriate training and resources are important. However, these situations can actually give teachers a unique opportunity to connect with their students. When teachers discover how to use technology alongside their students, the experience can become more communal than it otherwise might be. This, in turn, can motivate students to try using the technology and participate in the exercise.

How smart classrooms advance learning opportunities

Once teachers and schools become proficient in using education technology in the classroom, they may find it valuable to explore the benefits of smart classrooms. In a smart classroom, each student has a tablet or laptop at their desk that they can use to follow the lesson, do classroom activities, take tests and complete homework assignments. In this model, technology is more centrally integrated into the classroom environment and most of the curriculum is delivered in digital form. Smart classrooms can advance learning outcomes in several ways. For example, they can establish real-time feedback loops between teachers and students and enable more individualized learning environments.

Bring the classroom to life with technology

K-12 education is already transforming, as teachers try using technology in the classroom that they hope will spark their students' interest and help them learn more effectively. Tools such as AR, VR and smartboards can enhance student engagement, especially when teachers use them to help students take more agency in their learning, overcome challenges to learning and integrate technology into the lesson. Smart classrooms advance this integration even further, maximizing the considerable benefits that technology can offer to schools and students alike.

Learn more about how classroom technology can come to life in a smart classroom.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.