In today’s increasingly digital age, technology integration in theclassroom is perhaps the best way to engage students and utilize a wealthof tools and resources, while make learning fun.
The pervasiveness of technology is not a threat to young minds across America or a death sentence to education as we know it — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In today’s increasingly digital age, technology integration in the classroom is perhaps the best way to engage students and utilize a wealth of tools and resources, while make learning fun.
In today’s heavily “wired” world, technology is vital for preparing students for the future — the internet in particular has drastically accelerated the speed at which connections between listening, reading and writing can be made. Up-to-date technology in the classroom is beneficial both as an academic tool and a mode of communication in the 21st century classroom.
What does this reality mean for the recent adoption of the Common Core Standards in classrooms across America? Many question whether the core standards leave enough room for teachers to use technology and digital media strategically and capably — a gap that presents a real issue today more than ever. Technology is a challenge that teachers and parents alike must face head on; no matter how unfamiliar they are with nuances of the digital world.
Let’s explore the goals of the recently adopted Common Core Standards and why technology is an ideal — and indispensable — agent to meeting these goals.
The Common Core Standards: Some Overarching Goals
With the recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards across classrooms in the U.S., parents and teachers are finally provided a clear and consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn. Designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, the standards reflect the knowledge and skills that young people need to succeed in both college and the professional world. Although the Common Core Standards alone cannot improve the quality of K-12 education, they provide several undeniable benefits for students, teachers and parents alike:
- Clear and synchronous academic expectations for teachers and students;
- Seamless transition for students relocating or transferring schools across state lines;
- Coast-to-coast collaboration for teachers as they adapt and enrich common standards with learning activities and new best practices;
- Alignment of textbooks, digital media and instructional materials for publishers and educational developers; and
- Unified standards that support the development of a comprehensive and consistent assessment system.
Technology: A Help or Hindrance to These Goals?
A top fear about technology integration — and certainly not an unwarranted one — is academic dishonesty. Although the Internet is typically today’s primary research tool, should it be the primary tool with which today’s students learn to research academic topics? While the internet is undoubtedly a vast source of information, students run the risk of using unaccredited content as the foundation to their research — or worse, arriving on inappropriate Web sites all because of bad syntax in a search engine.
The problem is not technology itself — it’s the type of technology teachers use to meet these goals. With the proper use of technology and enforced guidelines, students can learn the various strengths of technological tools and how best to utilize them to meet academic goals.
But kids today get technology — what about teachers?
From Facebook to Twitter to the online gaming community, surfing the Internet is as instinctual as breathing to many 21st century kids. While today’s child or teenager views technology as a way of life, the concept of a technology-based classroom can be daunting to teachers still struggling with the ever-changing world of edtech.
To put it simply: teachers today must learn, too. To know the nuances of technology is to truly hold the power to engage a classroom. With the lofty goals of the Common Core Standards, schools must provide teachers with the proper tools to meet these goals — whether that be software, in-person tutorials or written resources. A few top reasons why:
Traditional text books are budgeted to last six to seven years. Teachers will have to use technology to bridge this gap and stay current.
Without proper guidance and instruction from educators, technology will not help students to meet the standards. A laptop or mobile device in the hands of a student is not technology, it’s only the hardware. What’s important is how students learn to utilize this hardware through the guidance of a teacher, even if students are already incredibly well-versed with technology.
If teachers themselves have a better understanding of technology, it will be easier for them to re-think assignments that introduce the use of technology for research and assignments.
Active vs. Passive: A Change in Student and Teacher Roles
Until the recent introduction of technology in the classroom, the inevitable tendency of students to drift off, stare out the window or doodle mindlessly in school can be largely attributed to the rather passive nature of education. That’s not to say teachers have not actively engaged students — it just means that students have traditionally been recipients of information transmitted by a teacher or textbook. Technology, on the other hand, presents boundless opportunity for students to take on a much more active role in the learning process.
Technology also presents drastic changes for the usual role of a teacher. He or she is no longer the center of attention as the dispenser of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator by setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity. As students work on their technology-supported products, the teacher rotates through the room, looking over shoulders and suggesting resources that might be used.
Many Internet tools are collaborative and all are hands-on. Applications that allow for the creation of timelines, videos or other dynamic presentations offer a welcome change from lectures or note-taking. Even better, there’s an element of excitement when students’ work is available for viewing on the Internet. A few top technology options in the classroom include:
- Video-on-demand resources with search engines and content correlated to common core,
- Digital text books with imbedded video content,
- Talking word processors,
- Cognitive organizers,
- Alternative keyboards, and
- Online learning games, quizzes, forums, lesson plans and teacher feedback.
The Bottom Line: Technology Can Bridge the Gap
When students utilize technology as a tool, they are actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate or display information. They’re thinking about information, making choices and executing skills — as opposed to a typical teacher-led lesson where even the best and brightest might sit in silence. More so than ever before, students are in a position to define their goals, make their own decisions and evaluate their progress.
Success in the 21st century classroom has become far more dependent on students obtaining a well-rounded skill set as opposed to reaching an academic comprehension level. Bridging the gap between technological integration and the Common Core standards is the first step toward improving our education system and molding brighter leaders for tomorrow.