Teaching has never been about presenting information to students and letting them passively absorb that information. The best teachers always strive to make personal connections with their students, helping them push their limits and overcome unique challenges to instill a love of learning.
So when digital tools began to appear in classrooms, many teachers were understandably wary of how the technology would affect the human aspect of teaching. Would students get lost in the digital world and stop being engaged learners? Was the instructor's role going to be diminished or become obsolete?
For several years digital devices and technology have become ubiquitous in schools. I can clearly state that teachers have more opportunities than ever to impart knowledge in a personalized way. In addition, they are providing students with the skills they need to succeed in a digitally-centered work environment. Here are three truths we've learned about technology in the classroom:
1) Technology improves teaching methods, it does not replace a good teacher
The best teachers have always had a wide range of tactics to help engage students in their learning. Many of us have had a teacher who did a unique project with their students each year; it could be a fictional war to help students understand geographic and economic tensions or a group project to stage Romeo and Juliet.
Integrating EdTech into traditional education is like turning a toolbox into a power tool set. Students can collaborate using exciting new methods, and teachers can bring more lessons to life. That's not to say that all digital lessons have to become fancy; on the contrary, even more, traditional lessons can be more immersive when students have the opportunity to investigate, present their findings, and interact with the material in their own way.
"Those who advocate for the use of technology in the classroom say that these tools do not replace the teacher. Rather, they create an educational partnership between the teacher and the student," said Shelby Horne, a sixth-grade teacher at Orchard Elementary School and LanSchool user, in a recent USA Today article.
The traditional paper-and-pencil system puts the teacher at the center of every lesson, but we can't say that the system is tailored to every learning style and personality, or even every lesson.
With digital devices, inquisitive students can explore and integrate outside information into their learning, gaining valuable research skills and developing critical thinking skills. Shy and reserved students are less afraid to participate thanks to quizzes, digital hand-raising, and private messaging exchanges with the teacher; ultimately, it helps them gain confidence and receive more personal feedback. Teachers can offer the fastest students the opportunity to quietly move on to the next lesson while other students finish the previous exercise, making class time more productive.
The use of technology in the classroom is never set in stone. The teacher has an important role to play, serving as a guide and responsible for personalizing lessons for each student and providing emotional support.
2) The teacher does not have to know all the answers
"When we get out of the model in which the teacher is supposed to be the ultimate expert, we get right alongside our students and show them concretely what curiosity and learning are all about," Shelby said.
As a general rule, are professionals expected to answer every problem they face in their daily work? Or do most of us think of Google as our second brain?
Having technology tools in the classroom has given teachers the same opportunity. They no longer need to know everything: they can engage in learning alongside their students when opportunities arise and, as a result, construct more affluent, more nuanced lessons.
Simultaneously, they show students what modern problem solving is all about. Having the ability to search for an answer eliminates the artificial walls of the classroom and anchors academic learning in the 21st century.
3) Technology should inspire students as much as teachers
Through the use of technology in the classroom, students can create content in a wide variety of formats. Students can try their hand at everything from coding and web design to robotics, music production, using paper writing services, filmmaking, architectural design, interactive presentation creation, and more. Skills-based training, designed to explore different career opportunities that we used to take only in college, are now integrated into programs much earlier.
This is obviously very inspiring for the students, who can explore different careers and hobbies in a safe and guided environment, and incredibly inspiring for the teachers. The best teachers approach each day of class thinking about the lessons of the day and the long-term outcomes for each student. It's exciting to see each student develop a very diverse range of skills and find areas where they can thrive.
It's a great time to be a great teacher.
Great teachers have always shaped their students' futures by making a personal connection with them, explaining lessons in a lively way, and developing the learning skills they need to succeed. Thanks to technology, these innovative moments are more accessible to experience than ever, regardless of a child's background or learning style.
Students who have access to technology tools seamlessly integrated into their lessons by a loving and protective teacher have a great chance to thrive in their future work environment. That's why we are proud to advocate for the use of EdTech in the classroom. Innovative teaching sits at the intersection of guided learning and the use of powerful technology. We believe that putting great tools in the hands of great teachers is the key to achieving the best possible student outcomes.