Teachers and Technology
Technology has often been seen as a classroom distraction with detrimental effects on learning. But many teachers in American schools are now using electronic media and devices in ways that are designed to improve academic achievement. Learn how technology is being incorporated into the 21st century curriculum.
Classrooms Go High Tech
Step into Audrey Miller's high school classroom in Oceanside, New York, and very likely you'll find students glued to television screens and computer monitors. But the students aren't watching the latest teen vampire drama or updating Facebook pages. Instead, they're working on group projects that incorporate video, computer graphics, digital photography and broadcasting.
Ms. Miller is not alone in her efforts to bring high tech skills to classroom learning. Sixth grade social studies teacher Megan Taber incorporates use of Apple's iPod Touch at Cuthbert Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She uses Google docs, educational apps and video capabilities to make learning more engaging. And Morristown High School students in New Jersey carry around iPads, reading their textbooks on screen and completing interactive e-assignments.
Welcome to education in the 21st century, where technology is not seen as enemy to learning, but as a tool to enhance it. These are only a few of the classrooms profiled on the website of The New York Times. In each of the video profiles, educators and students weigh the potential benefits and perils of incorporating technology into education. The verdict: As Audrey Miller suggests, 'If you're willing to embrace it, it just creates a tremendous amount of opportunity for your students.'
A National Trend
Data from a report by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) backs up anecdotal information about the use of technology in the classroom. According to the report, 83 percent of teachers agree that they have an interest in incorporating technology into the curriculum. And 88 percent said that technology is a priority for school administrators.
Beyond teacher and administrator attitudes about technology, another important indicator of tech's prevalence in the classroom emerges from new academic standards. Recent statistics show that 36 states have developed standards incorporating tech skills into the curriculum, and nine others are in the process of doing so. The ramifications of these numbers cannot be overstated as the inclusion of technology in academic standards ensures that use of electronic media is a focus - not an afterthought - in instruction.
Learning Technology Benefits
So just what benefits can incorporating technology in the classroom provide? To begin with, teachers can use electronic media to make classroom presentations more visually interesting while reinforcing important concepts. And many possibilities emerge when educators open up student projects to multimedia products. Young people who are allowed to use electronic media for independent assignments have been shown to engage with the content in more meaningful ways.
Technology can also play a role in the development of classroom resources that meet students' individual learning needs. For example, children who learn best through tactile experiences may benefit from touch screen technologies. Those who have difficulty retaining information they read can improve comprehension by reading on an ebook device that allows for annotation. And electronic feedback loops allow teachers to assess learning in real time by providing an instant snapshot of students who are struggling.
When incorporated well into the curriculum, digital media and electronic devices can enhance student interest without creating distractions. And technology can help to bring learners together into a cohesive learning unit by, as Audrey Miller of Oceanside High says, giving 'opportunities for everyone to communicate with each other.'