The overall impact of technology in education has been well discussed and researched both in developing and developed countries, especially in the last decade. There are many different opinions, but it is definitely unavoidable. The pros and cons of technology in the classroom are widely debated, changed often, but regardless of everything, technology is part of life, part of modern teaching and we as teachers must find a way to balance between traditional teaching and the technologically aided one. Technology is not replacing the role of the teacher but it is redefining their roles in the classroom. The first step is recognising the importance of technology within education and buy-in that it can improve teaching and learning. It should be seen as an effective way to widen educational opportunities.
In this post, there is an argument that technology does enhance student learning despite some recent studies and comments stating otherwise. Instead it is posited that the real problem is a lack of digital competence (i.e. a digital deficiency), and in turn a lack of quality technology training to effectively improve our students’ learning. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, students are closely connected to technology and we cannot change that. So why not embrace it and use it to our advantage as educators?
Most of the participants in a 2017 study by Lindita Sknderi, agree that technology increases student’s academic achievements. Besides this, the teachers also also felt that technology enhances lifelong learning which is arguably a key goal in most schools, and understandably so. However, the study also showed that teachers did not think the same regarding communication skills. They disagreed strongly that technology has a positive impact in developing communication skills for young people. The non-profit New Schools Venture Fund and Gallup group found that nearly nine in ten U.S. public school students say they use digital learning tools at least a few days a week and more than half questioned said they use digital technology to learn every day. The survey found that classroom technology gets high marks from educators. At least eight in 10 teachers and school leaders said they see great value in using classroom technology tools now and in the future.
When technology is used correctly and effectively, the benefits are clear. Students no doubt are learning more when lessons are delivered by a more competent and confident user of technology. However, when technology is used incorrectly as a teaching tool, the results are not positive, quite the opposite. Technology presents a wonderful opportunity to re-shape education because it is popular in general, with both students and teachers. One study in the US has shown that the introduction of technology makes 87% of students more likely to attend class and 72% of them more likely to participate. Another study by Smoothwall found that 96% of teachers believe technology has had a positive impact on the way children participate and learn in lessons. Another study in 2009 found that the benefits of technology exceed the costs, particularly when considering the enjoyment of students in class and developing an active learning environment .
Many schools have (correctly in my opinion) invested in technology; iPads, MacBooks, Chromebooks, desktops etc, but how many have invested properly in training their staff? How many schools can honestly say that their teachers and users are confident in their usage? How often do these devices simply become a fancy utility? Often used simply to manage student behaviour? What can we do to make teachers more competent with the use of technology, more confident and buy-in to the use of technology to aid their teaching, thus impact positively on student learning? How do we find the balance with the tried and tested methods and the new-age developments?
Firstly, it should not be a choice. Teachers must accept that they need to use devices and technology, agreeing to professional development, both in and outside school. There is an immense need for professional development sessions and appropriate training which could make the best out of teachers and give the best possible to the students. It is all about creating a harmony, a balance, between the traditional and basic forms of teaching integrated with technology.
School leaders should realise that it takes time for teachers to integrate technology in the classroom because it takes a long time to plan, learn and prepare. It takes time to build up confidence and competence. Teachers need time freed up for training and familiarisation. Of course, this is a common request and never easy to do, but many creative ways allow it (e.g. Teachers covering each other). Within this time, ask staff to feed back something valuable, maybe in INSET, maybe in regular sharing good practice sessions. Promote the use of taking a risk – ‘try it, it won’t break’ approach is required! Time is vital. There are too many websites and resources to share. Pinpoint a few that will work and let staff play, teach each other and work with them. Give them the time to do this. Time is key! Use your best users of technology to train others, maybe with a schedule. You will be surprised with the uptake – teachers are professionals, professionals who wish to learn and develop, we all need structure and guidance. Why not get students to train staff? For example, my own personal use of Prezi is entirely credited to Anina, a 15 year old student.
There is no doubt that the future of the workplace will be heavily dependent on technology. The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will see an increase in workforce automation. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that over the next 10 to 20 years, “14 percent of jobs are at high risk of being fully automated, while another 32 percent at risk of significant change”. Hence, it seems imperative that education systems adapt to ensure students are equipped with the right skills to survive in our changing world. While there are many different theories on what and how students should learn, there is no escaping the fact that students will need to be prepared to continuously learn and upskill – people will be learners for life (lifelong learners once more). Technology is playing, and will continue to play, a key role in the way skills are acquired and developed for the future workspace.
Tej Samani, an advocate for more technology advances in education, is quoted as saying, “Our education system has needed significant progression to just keep up, let alone stay ahead of the leaps in technology we are experiencing. While technology will always struggle to replace an effective teacher, it can help develop effective teaching as well as deliver tailored, personalized education to learners of all standards, irrespective of how complex their barriers to learning are. The advancement in education technology can bring in areas such as grade prediction, performance tracking, and personalization – this will help to ensure that the most critical stage of a person’s life is delivered with accuracy, engagement, and foresight”
A word of caution: There are many companies that are focusing on driving positive change in education through technology or are they? Schools and leaders need to be extremely careful before utilising software and technology. Hidden motives, often profit-driven do exist and are a clear conflict of interest. School should conduct a proper and thorough research into all pieces of software and hardware. It does not have to be so costly if done properly.
Finally, make the use of technology to enhance student learning an area of focus throughout the year. Put it on all the developmental plans. Don’t lose sight of this objective – try to make it work for all but also demand it as an expectation. Finally, it is worth remembering that technology is not the answer to everything – we still need classroom leaders and students with an appetite for learning. Schools that find the correct balance, will see the positive outcomes on their students.
Teachers’ perception of use of technology in the classroom