Chalkboards, once a staple of the classroom, have long since fallen second to whiteboards. Whiteboards, in turn, were quickly replaced by SmartBoards. Students went from taking notes in spiral notebooks to typing up notes on laptops. Instead of turning in stapled sheets of paper, students are now expected to upload assignments by a certain time on a specific day to their class websites.
With this major shift over the past generation, the conversations surrounding technology in the classroom remain tense. Teachers, parents, and students fall on either side of the debate on issues surrounding focus, attention, and engagement in class.
Proper use of technology in the classroom provides students and teachers with faster access to information and supplemental materials. Teachers can use technology to differentiate their lesson plans for different types of learners, and they can quickly and effectively collect data on student performance in real-time. For special needs students, technology can mean the difference between keeping up with class as they learn new material and sitting silently while falling behind on notes and concepts. The presence of technology in a learning environment allows students exposure and access to various ways of learning. For any given subject, each student now has options for how to best master the content.
Technology is certainly an asset to education, but it can be a hindrance to learning environments if mismanaged. As anyone who has missed an entire portion of a conversation because they were scrolling through their Instagram feed knows, technology can be distracting. Additionally, access to the Internet – although limited by many schools’ WiFi network security settings – makes it easier for students to access other people’s work and copy it for their own.
Of course, no system is perfect; students have been finding ways to cut corners since clapping chalkboard erasers was considered punishment for misbehaving in class. However, when employed intelligently and carefully, with clear expectations and usage guidelines, technology is an irreplaceable resource for teachers and students alike.