The integration of technology in K-12 classrooms has impacted all aspects of education. Students now have access to all sorts of tools and technologies that have opened up a world of learning opportunities to them, and teachers can now leverage teaching tools that not only enhance instruction, but also enable learning to continue outside of the classroom.
Trends such as mobile learning, interactive technology and the integration of educational apps have already made a significant impact on learning, but this impact isn’t a direct result of these products, but rather a result of successful technology integration in classrooms.
Many school districts have failed to successfully integrate even the most popular EdTech into their classrooms due to a lack of understanding of how to utilize these tools to improve instruction and learning.
Technology Transforms Education
Students have access to more information than ever before, and teachers are able to leverage tools that not only enhance instruction, but also keep students engaged and actively learning.
Emerging technology trends such as mobile learning and the integration of interactive displays have certainly expanded learning opportunities, but it’s not just these highly innovative tools that are going to make a true difference in education – it’s how educators choose to use these devices in their curricula and classrooms.
Developing the instructional skills that will optimize learning through the use of technology takes work. Educators need training, preparation and support to best utilize these tools in the classroom. Even the most popular education technologies pose challenges to educators, and it’s important educators are prepared with the proper training and support to overcome these challenges.
The following EdTech trends have the potential to make a significant impact on education. Here’s what you need to know to ensure they succeed in the classroom:
Mobile Device Integration
Perhaps the most popular EdTech trend in K-12 classrooms, mobile device integration has provided students with more access to learning tools and information than any other traditional classroom material.
Supplying students with personal devices has enabled them to experience new and innovative learning experiences both in and outside of the classroom. Within the classroom, mobile devices allow students to research and share information with their fellow classmates, and even present that information through a connection to projector or presentation tool. Beyond the classroom, students are able to access online learning tools and continue their learning experiences at home or in other areas where internet is provided.
Perhaps the most significant benefit mobile device integration has provided students is equal access to learning opportunities, no matter their socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Mobile learning is one way for educators to close the digital divide between students who have access to technology and students who don’t,” says Evan Lieberman, an instructional technology facilitator at LBJ Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas.
Giving all students access to 24/7 learning has certainly transformed education, but the perks of mobile device integration aren’t guaranteed.
There are many factors that can lead to failed mobile device tech integration. Take, for example, LA Unified School District’s $1.3 billion failed iPad initiative. The district rolled out iPads for every student in 47 schools, but soon after the deployment, a hacking incident caused teachers to express their concerns over lack of training and resources. What went wrong?
For one, the district did not have a plan of how they were going to manage, protect and leverage the iPads in the classroom. Teachers were not trained or prepared with resources to understand how to incorporate these devices into their curricula to enhance learning. Furthermore, the district’s filters were easily bypassed by students, putting the school’s network at risk.
“Support, communication and making sure everything runs smoothly is a big thing. You have to communicate everything make sure you have a plan,” says Rich Nichols, director of technology at Perry Community School District, a 1:1 district. “I tried to make sure that staff and parents didn’t think mobile devices were some silver bullet.”
Training, ongoing professional development and ensuring school’s networks are prepared for mobile devices are just a few factors that help lead to the success of this popular EdTech trend. Preparation
is key to the success of any technology initiative, and it’s important schools have a plan as to how they are going to reach learning goals through the use of technology such as mobile devices.
Interactive projectors, digital whiteboards and displays have significantly improved the way teachers present information. With interactive display technology, students now have the ability to not only view information, but also interact with the content.
“It’s a step beyond just marking on a board. You can now access multimedia websites; you can pull in images in a moment’s notice. It really tricks up the whiteboard and turns it into a giant computer dis- play,” says Charles Cooper, an instructional technology consultant for Education Service Center, Region 11. “In essence, most of the things that you can do on an app on an iPad now becomes larger and you can display that to your students. That interaction part is engaging.”
Students can make digital annotations and drawings as well as drag and move content around the display with just the touch of their fingers. This interaction allows students to become more active and engaged in the classroom, but in order for interactive technology to truly enhance learning, teachers need to feel comfortable integrating the technology into lesson plans.
“One of the challenges is if the teacher doesn’t understand some of the basics of how to call up different colors with different markers or how to access a website effectively, they can get frustrated and they’ll want to go back to the things that they do know,” says Cooper.
If teachers are not comfortable using new technologies in the classroom, they are more likely to return to traditional methods of instruction. This is where technology training becomes a key part of the success of technology integration.
“When teachers are trained in using digital displays, they can bring out the interactive aspect of the technology,” says Lieberman. “Buying the technology is the important first step, but it is just as essential to train teachers on how to use the technology in order to facilitate true interactive learning.”
Teachers need to get their hands on new technology before it has entered the classroom in order to learn how to successfully integrate it into their curricula. Without this training, technology such as interactive displays will simply take up space in the classroom, rather than trans- form it.
In addition to feeling comfortable with using technology, teachers also need to feel that the technology is making a difference in their students’ learning experiences.
“If [a teacher] is excited about using the interactive whiteboard as a teacher centered tool but turns around and see that students are still bored, they will move away from using that tool and go back to some- thing that has been more successful in the past,” says Cooper.
In order for technology such as interactive whiteboards and displays to succeed in improving learning, students need to feel motivated to use the technology. This is where teachers must develop lesson plans and activities that engage students through the use of technology.
A final challenge interactive technology poses schools is the installation of the hardware itself. Interactive projectors, for instance, require the installation of not only a projector, but also a whiteboard or smooth wall surface. To help ensure the installation process is safe and efficient, schools may want to consider hiring a local professional integrator to do the job, rather than taking on a DIY project.
Productivity applications such as Google Apps for Education have made accessing digital learning tools easier than ever before. With many apps now available on various mobile devices, students are able to extend their learning after school hours in addition to leveraging these tools in the classroom.
Educational apps, unlike some other forms of education technology, are easily accessible, simple to install and tend to be extremely user- friendly. Many are designed to be engaging and interactive, making the integration of educational apps an extremely popular trend in K-12 education.
While the benefits of educational apps are plentiful, educators should choose wisely when integrating these tools into their curricula.
Due to the immense amount of apps available on apps stores, it can be difficult to know which apps are going to complement lesson plans and provide meaningful learning experiences to students. While some apps may claim they are educational and meant for the classroom, they might not provide the content, interaction, or engagement that teachers are looking for to enhance learning.
Choosing the right educational apps for a particular subject or les- son takes some research. To help with the selection process, teachers should consider speaking with fellow educators both in and outside of their school districts who are using educational apps in their classrooms. Through these conversations, teachers can learn from other educators’ experiences as to which apps have had the most significant impact on learning in classrooms, and which ones have failed to make a difference.
In addition to choosing the best learning apps, educators also have to be wary of downloading apps that may compromise student data. Many applications collect student data to track their progress and growth, and this data needs to be protected to ensure personal information is not stolen or sold. It is vitally important that schools do their research before downloading applications onto student’s devices and are certain that vendors do not own student information or intend to sell it or use it for ad targeting. Much of this information can be found in vendor’s privacy notices. If this information is not readily available to educators, it should not be used for educational purposes.
Finally, when students are using apps on their personal devices during class, educators need to be able to monitor how students are learning to ensure the app is being used as a learning tool and not causing distraction.
IT directors and even teachers can leverage device monitoring software such as LanSchool and DyKnow Cloud to view student’s screens and monitors. While this technology is very effective for classroom management, it is also important that educators teach their students responsibility and work with them to ensure the learning experience is meaningful.
“It’s really important for teachers in the classroom, especially at the elementary school level, to be modeling for their students,” says Cooper. “Play with the app before you over expose your students to it. Even if they’re at a station, say, doing some math program, jump in with them and show them how to manipulate the app and teach them what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.”
Educational technology will continue to evolve and improve, but it’s important that educators recognize the vital role they play in the success of technology integration in classrooms. Understanding how these technologies can be used to supplement instruction and enhance activity in the classroom is key to its success in improving education.
This article was updated, originally posted in 2016.