With smartphones, today’s students have direct access to all kinds of information that’s literally at their fingertips. So what are the benefits of technology in the classroom?

Technology has proliferated and is now part of every aspect of our lives—including our children’s. When it comes to tech in the classroom, gone are the days where the goal was to teach students how to use technology. Now it’s about how to best use high tech to teach our students.

The benefits of technology in the classroom: An overview.

So what are the benefits of technology in the classroom? EdTech can boost learning in many ways, so students can learn on their own or by collaborating with classmates. This lends flexibility so teachers can create better lesson plans to engage today’s learners.

Huffington Post provides a great example of how Chris Crowell, a kindergarten teacher in Flemington, NJ, employs classroom technology in natural and authentic ways. When a student finds a spider in the sink, he has another student plug a Zoomy digital microscope — a small egg-sized device — to a computer. He then brings the spider over (via the portable tub that was inside the sink) so the students can check out the magnified images of the spider on the computer screen.

An example of the benefits of technology in the classroom when used in a mindful way. The photo below shows children using a Zoomy digital microscope to view magnified images of plants they’ve grown from seedlings.

Yet the same article also points out the many concerns about children and technology. Countless pediatricians have warned that they’re seeing today’s young people logging in way too much screen time. Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, M.D. a pediatrician and author of “CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media,” says “For children under five, it’s not the use of technology that’s the issue. It’s the need for them to develop other skills.” In other words, time spent on phone or computer screens is time away from reading, making things, jumping, running, tying shoes, and learning social skills.

So where is the happy medium between the good and the bad of classroom tech? How can we can get the full benefits of technology in the classroom while encouraging kids to learn and explore in the real world? Let’s weigh some of the pros and cons.

EdTech: The advantages and disadvantages of technology in the classroom.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of technology in the classroom? The easy availability of online resources makes it easier for teachers to create memorable lessons. For students, it makes the learning interesting and longer-lasting. Statistics have long shown the benefits of tech inside of school walls. According to TeachHub, using classroom tech to help teach our students makes learning more fun, better prepares our students for the future, improves retention rate, and helps students learn at their own pace.

Technology also creates more opportunities for learning and working together that simply did not exist in the traditional classroom. Gone are the days of isolated environments where kids could only work with and contact other students in the same room or building. Today’s technology fosters a wealth of teaching moments we didn’t have in the path. Virtual classrooms and online learning are also opening up doors for students to learn more on their own time and at their own pace.

The abundance of quality EdTech tools available for teachers to offer their students in the learning environment has grown at a rapid pace. The key here is to ensure quality over misspent popularity.

The educational apps that students make use of today allow them to progress at their own pace. With so many options available, students in the same classroom might be using different systems that suit them in order to learn similar material. High-quality apps can be customized to meet students at their precise styles and levels of learning.

In addition, just-in-time learning is revolutionizing the speed and reliability of the information available to students, helping them to get what they need to solve problems immediately. And it benefits teachers as well, allowing them to see where students may be missing particular pieces of understanding so that they can then target lessons just for that knowledge.

One of the major benefits of technology in the classroom is the sheer variety of the ways in which students can learn. This helps teachers better accommodate children with different learning styles. While some may thrive in the standard lecture setting, others may prefer to learn by doing or by watching videos that take them through the steps. Having different ways to learn means that students will likely explore and try a variety of techniques, allowing them to discover the best strategies for themselves as individual learners.

But in order to get the full benefits of technology in the classroom, we need to see that while classroom tech can be useful in some instances, it can be a detraction in others. Top Hat, a provider of a leading in-class student engagement app for higher education, offers a great discussion on some of the pros and cons of classroom tech from the instructor’s point of view. Despite all the pros, they point out that some major potential drawbacks include the distraction factor. Ed-tech tools need to be utilized according to specific guidelines and boundaries set regarding their use in order to minimize distraction in the classroom.

Top Hat also mentions a social disconnect that can be brought on by students immersing themselves in tech rather than their environment. Too much screen time and not enough face time is a topic that has been a hot debate for years, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Moderation is generally thought of as the key to this issue.

There’s also the examination into the mechanical brain functioning involved in digital learning vs. pencil-and-paper learning. Along the lines of calculators vs. pencils, what happens when we come across instances where we need to employ traditional math or other types of ingrained learning in order to solve a real issue?

And last on our list of cons, let’s state the obvious: Classroom technology can also increase the chance of dishonesty. Cheating in class, on tests, and on assignments is a growing concern among parents and teachers alike.

How important is technology in education?

So how important is technology in education? Taking the good with the bad, there are some innovative and vastly effective new learning models in today’s learning environment previously undreamt of in the past. These new models facilitate both collaborative and self-directed learning. For instance, the “connected teaching model” links instructors to their students, and to specialized systems, resources, and content to help them improve their own instruction and personalize learning for their students.

Taking the good with the bad, there are some innovative and vastly effective new learning models in today’s learning environment previously undreamt of in the past. These new models facilitate both collaborative and self-directed learning. For instance, the “connected teaching model” links instructors to their students, and to specialized systems, resources, and content to help them improve their own instruction and personalize learning for their students.

 Another tech-driven learning model is “blended learning,” which incorporates both face-to-face, school-based instruction, and online learning. This can accommodate students’ varying learning needs and enable them to work on their own time in addition to classroom instruction. It can be particularly useful in rural areas to help students and teachers in remote areas overcome distance.

Another important infrastructure for learning is “open educational resources”— teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain and are freely available to everyone via the Internet in the form of podcasts, digital libraries, textbooks, and games.

Finally, as Teachers with Apps write, a major reason why technology is important in education is because, as pointed out by Teachers with Apps, it can give kids in less advantaged school districts a leg up. “Students using technology in low-income districts gain significant skills and advantages in the learning process,” they explain. “Using the same technology is an equalizer for disadvantaged students.”

With the global reach of the World Wide Web and the number of people with smart devices that can connect to it, the new age of anytime, anywhere learning is here. Now, students, schools, parents, and teachers need to catch up.

Photo: CC 2.0 Arno Mikkor/EU2017EE via Flickr.

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