Classroom technology: the future

Where are we today with classroom technology?

03/30/2013  |  DARRELL WARD

Classroom technology has grown dramatically over the past half century from the transparency projectors of the 1960s to the classrooms of today replete with an array of impressive teacher technology tools.

Examples of technologies available to the classroom teachers of the 21st century include:

  • Personal Computers
  • Whiteboards
  • Document Cameras
  • Student Response Systems
  • Classroom bubble scanning devices
  • Audio Systems
  • Student and Teacher Mobile Tablet Devices (iPads, iPod Touches, Android Tablets, Windows Tablets, etc.)
  • Digital content

What Are the Goals of Classroom Technology?

The obvious goals are to utilize technology to enhance the learning activities of students and subsequently produce academic growth. One would expect that a side benefit would be improved teaching effectiveness and efficiency. So we are seeking student academic growth with improved teaching efficiency and effectiveness.

At this point in mathematics, reading and science, it is not clear that we are seeing improved scores from the utilization of technology in our classrooms. The long term trends are more encouraging at the fourth and ninth grade levels but quite disappointing at the 12th grade levels. In fact, the scores at the 12th grade level are basically unchanged or lower in 2008 compared to 1971. Massive technology had penetrated the classrooms by 2008 where technology was dominated by the transparency projector in the 1970s. Thus, we have challenges in front of us to more effectively utilize classroom technologies to deliver on growth across our education platform.

My belief is that we are accumulating the technology tools and experience necessary to deliver on the use of classroom technology to create academic growth. It is clear to me that we are at the convergence of a set of simple and daily usable technology tools that are coalescing to achieve the following:

  • Engage and interact with students in a variety of modalities focused on rapid formative assessment
  • Gather evidence of progress on the achievement of learning criteria
  • Act on that evidence to impact instruction
  • Collaborate and share with data team members to create best practices

How Do We Utilize Classroom Technology to Reach Our Goals?

As the pioneer of student response systems into the K-12 and higher education campuses beginning in 2000, I clearly had a vision of robust and rich formative assessment learning activities in all major classrooms. However, student response technology along with most other technologies developed in the mid 1990s time frame and present in many classrooms produce minimal gains due to structural issues inherent in these technologies. The structural deficiency has been the simple ability to share amongst colleagues.

Thus, though we equipped many classrooms with whiteboards, teacher mobile chalkboards, scanners, document cameras and classroom response systems supporting rapid formative assessment, we didn’t have a clear picture of the total educational environment necessary to fully realize the benefits of the technology.

What has become very clear in the last few years is that technologies generating student outcomes in classrooms need to produce the learning activities and outcomes so that they are easily shared amongst colleagues. These learning activities need to be flexible to include outside of class utilization when possible.

This requires a commitment to the necessary technologies and content to collect evidence of learning during instruction in a seamless manner. It also requires a commitment to the implementation of a culture of collaboration amongst teachers embodied in data teams. I believe that the classroom technologies going forward will deliver on these important components and we will realize gains in student achievement at all levels.

Importance of Data Teams

In the early 2000 time frame while classroom technologies were exploding into classrooms, the concept of data teams or professional learning communities was beginning to take form. The data team concept has developed over the past few years and is now a very important initiative for school improvement.

Data teams and professional learning communities have attacked the culture of teaching and teacher collaboration at the very core. Data teams focus on sharing, collaboration, remediation and mastery learning with the goal of changing the school culture from a teacher centric to a community centric model focused on best practices to impact all student outcomes.

Again, among prominent educators and researchers there is virtually universal agreement for the utilization of continuous and structured teamwork among teachers (data teams) with the goal of delivering academic progress for students through improvement in the quality of teaching. The next chapter of technology must and will actively support such efforts.

The Next Chapter of Classroom Technology

Cloud-Based Solutions

Over the last five years, cloud-based technology has emerged. The positive aspects of cloud-centric classroom technologies include:

  • Digital learning activities including assessments are easily shared among colleagues
  • Outcomes that are digitally collected or manually transferred to digital formats are accessible to all colleagues
  • Content and assessment issues with respect to teacher error can be immediately corrected across the spectrum of teachers and students affected by such an error (e.g. a bad question can be eliminated from assessment outcomes across the various common assessment outcomes for all the students in all of the affected classes)
  • Technical support with respect to software installation and maintenance virtually disappears as software and content updates are deployed to the cloud with immediate utilization by all stakeholders

Technology Supported Data Teams

The primary resistance to data teams is the time required to plan common formative assessments, have each member implement the assessment and gather the outcomes. Then, the team must collectively evaluate results, specify strategies to overcome gaps and deliver the instruction to remedy these gaps. Typically this results in very infrequent data team meetings and infrequent assessments somewhat defeating the fantastic improvements resulting from frequent common assessment. Again, the primary complaint among teachers is “I don’t have the time to accomplish all of this.” In a rapid formative assessment environment of three to five common assessments per week it is very difficult to sustain these frequent and important assessments for learning without technology support.

With cloud-based technology supporting data teams and a wide range of technology tools available to collect, evaluate and share results among colleagues, the ability to deliver frequent assessments now can be realized. Currently available assessment collection technology tools include student response units, personal scanning devices, teacher tablet software and student tablet devices.

Technology Supported Rapid Formative Assessment

Day by day formative assessments define rapid formative assessment. They deliver achievement. Classroom technologies supporting three to five formative assessments per week are now readily available and will continue to penetrate classrooms providing teacher tools to deliver on academic progress.

Teacher evaluations are increasingly linked to value added growth models. Classroom technologies that support the teacher in implementing and monitoring value added growth models in the classrooms will continue to grow and flourish. Value added growth models associated with the classroom teachers translates to value added growth for students. Maximizing that growth is the goal of classroom teacher. Let’s grow student success daily — appropriate technology provides a sustainable classroom environment to deliver on this goal!

Darrell Ward founded eInstruction in 1981 and, as CEO, pioneered student response technology into the U.S. Education System beginning in 2000. He is currently CEO of ALL In Learning. More information on Dr. Ward is available at or
Comments & Ratings