Technology’s Impact in the Classroom

Many of us can remember the technology-free classroom. First, we were being reprimanded for passing notes, and soon after for cell phone use. As kids head back to school this month, they enter a classroom different from former times. Technology in the classroom is now being fully embraced, with laptops now commonplace. Since the Toronto District School Board’s WiFi rollout was completed in 2016, all schools in the board now have wireless networks. The board has a $3-million annual technology budget.

Traditionalists might argue that in today’s tech-obsessed world, reliance on even more technologies is detrimental to young minds. Then there is also the possibility of abuse of technology and inappropriate use of social media.

On the other hand, it’s a digital generation, and with the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses, the need for more tech becomes all the more imperative.

How do parents feel about this? In a recent survey from Microsoft and YouGov, 60% of parents were ‘optimistic’ about the role technology is going to have in their child’s life as they get older, while 30% felt they were ‘unsure’ or ‘scared. 86% of parents said that tech in school, such as computer use and educational software, was beneficial to their child’s education.

Learning beyond the classroom

Educational videos may be soon a thing of the past, if not already. The Education on Board Program allows Australian teachers to sail on marine research ship RV Investigator. They are able to enhance their STEM knowledge and content, and conduct live webinars to their classrooms. They also plan to incorporate their experiences at sea into their lessons. This allows learning to be more interactive and applicable to the real world.

This semester, biology students at Arizona State University can use student loan payments to pay for virtual reality headsets. With the goal to “provide students with real-world experience,” students have the option to use these headsets to complete the course’s lab requirements.

person wearing VR headset

Can spot weaknesses

Microsoft, a company applauded for modernizing the classroom, recently unveiled new technology. One example is Snap + Core First, a symbol-based communication application to help those with speech and language disabilities express themselves.

Recent research predicts that the use of AI in the U.S. education sector will grow 47.5 per cent through 2021. While AI-powered educational games are frequently used, AI can be particularly helpful for those children taking special education, where the traditional one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. For these students, AI provides a personalized education, and helps with increasing attention span.

Virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri may help shyer children become more confident, said Chris King, chairman of the HMC group of private schools in the UK.  

Greater efficiency

Students and teachers in Saskatchewan are now being provided with SMART Learning software, which allows students to collaborate with others through their phones and tablets. With the software, teachers are able to design interactive lessons and provide game-based learning modules.

Adoption of technology in classrooms helps ease the workload for teachers. With AI helping to do mundane tasks such as reading directions out loud and grading standardized tests, teachers are able to spend more one-on-one time with students. An eastern China school has even installed facial recognition technology to monitor how attentive students are in class. If students seem distracted, based on their facial expressions, the computer will send this feedback to teachers. Intrusive? Maybe. At least there is no need to take attendance.

At Singularity University’s Global Summit last month, the future of work and learning were topics on the agenda. Gary A. Bolles, Chair of the Future of Work, stressed the importance of reshaping our educational institutions.

“We have to blow up what we’ve got today,” he said. “The current education system that is helping our young to be able to be prepared for the world of work is preparing them for yesterday’s world of work, not today’s.”

Integration of technology can enhance the school experience, and teachers should make greater use of it. With so many new innovations on the market, it makes returning to school seem almost appealing. The possibilities are endless, and poised to make an impact.

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