The 21st-century classroom
Turn the clock back twenty years, and if someone had talked about technology in the classroom, they would probably have meant an overhead projector. One of those light boxes on which you wrote in marker pen onto acetates to project what you had written up onto the wall. Archaic though they now sound, they were a big step forward because they allowed teachers to prepare lesson material in advance and reuse content in different sessions.
However, the quest to improve education never ends, and the government finds new ways to measure and score every year. What benefits then, can modern technology bring to 21st-century education?
It widens access to learning
Just as the workplace culture is changing and moving away from employees sitting at a desk from 9 – 5, so is the classroom. Education no longer stops at the end of the school day. Technology gives students access to teachers, to resources, to lesson reviews, via the internet, day or night. Students can seek help from online communities or from relevant websites. Within the classroom, the teacher is no longer the only route to learning. By using technology, teachers have the ability to set different assignments for different groups, allowing them to spend time with the students who need the most support.
It creates new ways of learning
Instead of sitting and listening to the teacher, perhaps with the occasional question raised, learning can now be collaborative. Groups of students can work together on projects, solving challenges and finding solutions as a team. Learning becomes not just two-way but multi-way, with pupils learning from the teacher, their peers and online resources – even from other schools across the world. Technology that supports collaboration empowers students to be more creative and connected than ever before.
It prepares students for the workplace
The experience gained from peer-to-peer education and engagement is more important than ever to prepare students for the workplace.
A recent study by the Institute of Student Employers (formerly the AGR) showed that nearly half of employers said graduates generally don’t have the workplace skills such as self-awareness, problem-solving, interpersonal skills and teamwork, they need when they are first hired.
By using technology to support collaborative learning, students can focus on their own exploration of the curriculum rather than purely experience the teacher’s presentation of it. This approach stimulates creativity and critical thinking and helps to develop the ‘soft’ skills employers value.
It makes learning fun and more engaging
Capturing and holding the attention of a group of teenagers during lessons is no mean feat as any teacher will tell you. Compelling technology systems can go a long way towards engaging students.
Today’s pupils are more digitally connected than any generation before them. They’ve been using tablets and smartphones to learn from since they could crawl. Is it not logical, then, to align today's classrooms with the way that they want to learn – and are used to learning? And when you introduce new technologies such as virtual reality, you really start to massively enhance the traditional learning experience.
It’s safe to say that technology is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in the classroom. It’s essential to integrate it into every aspect of learning if schools are to maximise the opportunities for their pupils.
What’s your experience of using technology in the classroom? We’d love to hear your views.