Technology is no longer the wave of the future. It is here now and experienced educators understand that technology in the classroom is not optional. Students, families, community members and future employers all expect the next generation to be tech savvy well before graduation, and it must begin in the early grades, fostering creativity, promoting cutting-edge presentations, guiding students as they learn to think critically and knowing how to research almost any topic imaginable.
Fostering Creativity With Technology
The ways in which technology enhances creativity seem endless — from NickJr Free Draw which can be used at any grade level to free websites like Canva that provide simple templates and ideas for emerging graphic designers.
More advanced students at the high school level have resources at their fingertips right on their tablet or laptop:
- AdobeColorCC takes the color wheel to a whole new level of complexity.
- DigitalArtsOnline is for students who might be focusing on a particular art form or one unfamiliar to the teacher. It offers tutorials for both techniques and software, giving students independence and accountability for their projects.
- BrainPickings provides inspiration and encouragement to artists of all kinds.
- Brainpop provides the tools students need to create their own digital games and apps.
Enhanced Storytelling and Presentations With Technology
While it is important that all students become confident enough to present themselves positively in a job interview or speak clearly and intelligently in social situations, not all students are at their best when making an oral report. Many students also find it difficult to express themselves adequately in written reports.
Student-friendly technology provides software and applications to make students’ stories come alive and class presentations move beyond PowerPoint. Here are two examples of how students can use technology to tell stories or make presentations without submitting a 10-page paper or standing in front of the class.
- Tellagami uses a picture, an avatar and the student’s voice to create a simple animated video.
- ScreenChomp is a little more complex, using an iPad to annotate over pictures or create presentations similar to those on a whiteboard. The stories or presentations can be saved, sent and shared.
Encouraging Students to Think Critically and Analytically
The goal of experienced educators at every grade level is to guide their students into thinking critically. Even at very early ages, students are asked more than the standard who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. It is critical that they know how to apply and analyze information, evaluate or draw conclusions about what they have read or heard, as well as create something of their own based on their conclusions.
Students of all ages can learn about thinking critically and analyzing real-world situations using technology.
- Websites like Whooo’sReading challenges students to think beyond multiple choice and answer questions using fewer but higher-level thinking questions. This gives students the freedom to choose their own books and teachers the ability to accurately check for understanding even if they haven’t read the books.
- When students enter the world of Spent, they are technically playing a game. As students assume the position of a person facing homelessness, however, they learn how to plan and use information to make decisions and how to find practical solutions to real-world problems. In addition, they gain insight into social justice issues, like poverty, and may grow emotionally as they experience compassion for others.
- MindMeister can be used to take notes, collaborate with other students online, deconstruct complex issues, and discover relationships between concepts and topics.
Research Options Available to Students Through Technology
There are many sources of information available on the internet but not all of them are safe for use by children. In addition, with the easy access to materials on almost every subject, students must learn how to determine whether or not sources are trustworthy, and how to navigate through a free website operating with advertisements.
The following are kid-friendly sites available to students:
- HowStuffWorks is for middle school students and explains complex concepts using a variety of media. Add-on articles enable students to dig deeper. The site offers quizzes to help students evaluate what they have learned.
- InfoPlease includes atlas, dictionary, thesaurus and timeline pages, as well as information about people, history, science and business.
- History Channel Great Speeches is a primary source for students in third grade and older.
Advantages of Using Technology in the Classroom
Websites like MineCraftEdu and Google Classroom provide a variety of services, such as making and accepting assignments, sharing information and collaborating, messaging, game playing and other community-building activities. Using this kind of technology in the classroom cuts down on paper, copying costs and “lost homework.” It meets children where are they are and prepares them for the future of communication and, possibly, employment.
In addition, just as not all students are well-suited for oral reports, some students struggle to participate in class or small group discussions. By using chat rooms like Google Classroom, students can join the conversation anytime, even if it takes them more time than their peers to form an answer or comment. This is ideal for students who are introverted as well as for those who need additional time to process information before they can form their response.
Finally, students are tech savvy. They will take the initiative to figure out how a website or app works on their own. They are used to having very few instructions and can determine “next steps” by trial and error and analytical thinking. With written work, on the other hand, students often passively wait for instructions and examples before they will even try to solve problems. When technology is involved, students take delight in being independent.
Technology is here to stay, and it will leave outdated curriculum and teaching practices far behind. Behavioral scientist, Matt Wallaert states, “When I imagine the classroom of the future, I imagine a place where teachers and technology are partners in fostering that creative, curious urge and helping harness students’ authentic motivations towards learning.”
As educators of all age levels, teachers must keep up-to-date on “the tools to supplement the traditional classroom setting and help engage students by using new and exciting formats that meet expectations and learning styles.” A Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Fitchburg State University includes coursework specifically designed to keep experienced educators up to date on technology trends in the classroom.