How Do You Use Technology in the Classroom?
Are you an advocate of using technology in the classroom? Or do you see it as just another distraction … one more thing that you have to compete with to keep your students’ attention?
You know what? No matter which way you feel about it, you’re right. Using technology in the classroom can be a double-edged sword, especially if it’s done simply for the sake of “using technology.”
One of the problems with it is that most of the time teachers receive no training (or simply cursory training) in how to use new technology or what the benefits to their students might be. So (if we’re lucky) we might get shiny new iPads or Chromebooks in our classroom but then not really have a clue what to do with them or how they can help us.
And who has the time to teach yourself how to use new apps or devices? Or to learn best practices for how to incorporate them into your classroom lessons and activities?
Most of my colleagues have a love/hate relationship with technology. We love it when it’s working and hate it when it’s not! My gut feeling is that most science teachers are pretty open to the idea of technology in the classroom, if only because we’re perhaps more used to technological “stuff” in college science labs.
Technology in the Classroom Can Really Benefit Your Students (And You!)
Today’s students are WAY more comfortable with technology than we older adults might be. It’s become an integral part of their lives and they EXPECT to see technology in their classrooms. Luckily, if used correctly technology can greatly add to student engagement and formative assessments.
So what are some of the benefits?
- It makes learning more fun. Okay, I know … I’m old-school enough to think that learning is sometimes just plain ol’ hard work. But today’s students are not the same ones I started this career with. They expect to be entertained.
There are some amazing virtual labs covering everything from dissections to gel electrophoresis. We can now go on virtual field trips and talk to real scientists via Skype or Facetime. Technology opened up a whole world to my students that they would never have had access to otherwise.
- Students are more able to learn at their own pace. For example, flipped classrooms, blended learning and school management systems like Google Classroom and Schoology have enabled teachers to offer many more individualized options to students. It’s now much easier to have students in the same class working at different levels using technology.
- Technology allows students to collaborate and connect with each other. This is one of the biggest benefits of my classroom. I have found that students seem much more willing to work with each other, even with someone they wouldn’t normally work with, when they collaborate on a Google doc or Powerpoint.
I’ve seen how they help each other with the technical aspects of their work and how they actually seem to enjoy doing the assignments. Having a class blog that they all contribute to, for example, or having to comment on each other in Google Classroom or Edmodo allows even the quieter students to have a voice and to shine.
- Technology helps prepare students for the “real world.” Our society pretty much runs on computers now. Students who learn technological literacy in school will find it much easier when they enter the working world.
- Teachers can benefit from technology as well. Online grade books, lesson planning, and grading software can ease some of the load and allow us to work anywhere (wait … maybe that part’s NOT such a good thing!). And delivering instruction can be done so many different ways now – check out some cool ideas for using a document camera in your classroom.
One of the best benefits that I discovered was how much easier formative assessments became. Sites like Nearpod, Kahoot, Quizizz and Insert Learning allow me to instantly identify areas of weakness in learning and address them quickly. And what class doesn’t love a good game of Kahoot?
Are there downsides to technology in the classroom?
Of course there are.
Most teachers can tick off a pretty quick list …
- it’s a definite distraction … cell phones, Snapchat, Instagram
- not all students have equal access to technology outside of school
- lack of support at home for students and by the administration for teachers
- the mental and physical effects of too much screen time have been well-documented
- technology, especially 1 to 1, is an additional expense that many school districts have a hard time funding
In my opinion, the benefits of technology in the classroom outweigh the downsides. The key is to use technology correctly, to have it aid and assist in student learning instead of just using technology for the sake of using it.
What do you think about using technology? How has it benefitted or hurt your students? We’d love to hear your thoughts!