Technology extends far beyond the administrative offices in today’s educational environment. Surveys of K-12 schools show that more than 75 percent of classrooms have access to the Internet, and more than 95 percent of schools are connected. However, that has not translated into classrooms to successfully integrate technology into the curriculum. Only 53 percent of schools offer an online curriculum at the secondary level, while the number is even lower at the elementary level. Students also often only have access to classroom software in the classroom. Only nine percent of elementary schools offer remote access.
Even teachers who report a high level of comfort with computers rarely integrate technology use into lesson plans. Most usage is teacher-centric, meaning that you might use technology to find information but not as a direct learning tool, or to bring multimedia applications to the board for students.
How Technology Can Expand Teaching
The opportunities for improved education using integrated technologies are virtually endless. Consider a classroom where students complete in-class assignments on a tablet, allowing you to instantly see which students have grasped the concept and which need more reinforcement. You can translate this into individually tailored lesson plans that give students the specific practice assignments they need.
A teacher at Rocky Mountain Prep, a school that deals with students predominantly from low-income households, is beating the education gap by integrating technology into every aspect of learning, including independent writing assignments. When she assigns a research paper, students have time to work in the classroom. Each student uses Google Docs to complete the assignment, providing access to the students’ work in real time as they work through the assignment. She can help students get on track without disruptions, and see which students may need more help to meet their writing goals.
Incorporating educational games also offers students a more exciting and trackable learning experience. Students can work their way through logic problems and demonstrate problem-solving skills through a game, which then sends detailed results to you. The learning through the game is self-paced, but the results allow you to better determine pacing for general lessons. The integrated structure of the games allows you to collect important data about each student, without red pen markups. Less time grading means you get to spend more time planning and delivering content.
For ESOL students, information presented in a media-rich environment is more likely to cross the language barrier, allowing students to absorb information without getting hung up on unfamiliar vocabulary. Videos, pictures and slide shows of hands-on applications of skills help them internalize the information at the same time they get vocabulary reinforcement.
Communications Technology Streamlines Performance Reporting
In addition to curriculum benefits, communications technologies also offer ways to bring both parents and administrators into the classroom. Parents may not realize their child is struggling until the grades are in, but with detailed performance tracking, you can keep them up to date. This also allows school administrators to track student progress and arrange for extra tutoring as needed. Of course, SOARS (School Online Assessment Reporting System) is already a must for many teachers, but you can go above and beyond, showing daily or weekly performance metrics with automated functions. You can post performance on a class website and update a class wiki with current information so parents can reinforce lessons at home.
Technology is no substitute for hands-on teaching, but it can act as a trampoline to give students a boost. By opening up the lines of communication and bringing all elements of the school into the classroom, technology allows students to enjoy a truly individualized curriculum tailored to their educational needs, transitioning them into excited and lifelong learners, not simply students.