Heavy textbooks and dusty blackboards will soon become relics of classrooms past, like wooden paddles, individual slates, and Magic Lanterns.
Digital technology is rapidly changing the American education system. The edtech industry has exploded over the past few years, with technology in the classroom reshaping the way teachers teach, students learn, and schools operate. According to The Atlantic, statistics from the Education Technology Industry Network show that the market for Pre-K–12 non-hardware education technology is now worth around $8.5 billion, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down.
Today, technology in the classroom means more than a line of PCs in the back of a classroom. Digital devices like low-cost laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even robots are becoming an integral part of the school day. Futuresource Consulting Ltd revealed that more than half of US students had access to 1-to-1 computing this academic school year, and almost three-fourths of high school students report regular use of a smartphone or tablet in the classroom, according to EdWeek Market Brief. Public schools in the US alone spend more than $3 billion a year on digital content.
This momentum has opened up a wide world of opportunities for technologists and innovators who see the classroom as the next marketplace for disruption. From the way information is delivered to the way administrators track student progress, every aspect of the educational system is undergoing an exciting transformation.
Here’s a look at four big ways technology in the classroom is moving schools into the future.
1. The flipped classroom
The idea of “flipping the classroom” has become a buzzword in education. It’s an educational model in which students are initially exposed to new material outside of class—often through digital video lectures—and then use class time to absorb that knowledge through interactive activities.
This model blends the advantages and disadvantages of both online and classroom learning. The classroom is important for socialization—it’s where students receive direct help from their teachers and interact with their peers. Research from Columbia University found that for many students—particularly those that struggle with organization, discipline, and motivation—the structure and accountability of classroom time is essential for driving performance.
Online learning offers its own set of advantages, like enabling students to learn at their own pace and seek help for the things they struggle with. Unlike in the classroom where a student has only one chance to absorb a lecture, in an online classroom, students can pause and replay a video lecture as many times as they need to understand the material. Delivering information online also frees teachers to spend more classroom time working one-on-one with students, as well as dedicate more time to group projects, experiments, critical thinking activities, and more.
Adoption of flipped classrooms is still in its early days, but in the future it will be the norm. Technology will make education more personalized, adaptive, and interactive.
2. Digital textbooks
Just as lectures will go digital, technology in the classroom is also taking physical learning materials digital. Physical textbooks are static, expensive, and heavy. Even worse, their content tends to get outdated before the books make it to classrooms.
Technology is lightweight, flexible, and continuously updated. Students can access digital content anytime, anywhere, and they can easily search for the information they need. Digital devices also make it easier to enhance text with visual tools, multimedia experiences, and interactive activities that help students gain a firm grasp on the material. Devices serve as portals for a wide range of supplementary materials that accommodate myriad learning styles, and this has a big impact on student engagement. According to a 2014 report on mobile learning in education, 77 percent of teachers say mobile devices increase student engagement in learning.
3. Tracking and assessment
When students actively engage with technology during class, teachers are better able to monitor their progress and understand their needs. For example, while students are practicing fractions on tablet games, teachers can observe their students’ scores on their own devices. If one student is having a hard time mastering a concept, the teacher can quickly become aware of the issue and respond. Companies like Socrative and Kahoot are building products with these capabilities that students and teachers love—20 million of the country’s 55 million elementary and secondary school children have used Kahoot in March alone, according to The New York Times.
Software also takes the guesswork and friction out of identifying patterns, such as if one student’s grades have been slipping or the entire class is falling behind on a specific topic. And by making it easier, faster, and cheaper to assess student progress, technology provides teachers with more frequent, robust data about student performance, which teachers can mine to ensure no student is left behind.
School administration is notoriously rife with bureaucracy, stifling teachers and preventing schools from innovating and evolving. When teachers and administrators have to spend huge amounts of their time on bureaucracy, they have less time to spend focused on actual education. Software can help automate tedious tasks, eliminate paperwork, and keep documents organized. It can also streamline the way educators communicate with parents and manage logistics, such as teacher contracts, state assessments, and scheduling.
In the past, teachers had to manually collect attendance and hand deliver the reports to the office, where they would be put into a system. Today, systems like Gradelink enable teachers to quickly note the students that are missing and sync that information automatically with the school’s database.
We live in a highly digital world where technical skills are critical to finding a job, no matter the field. This makes technology in the classroom not a nice-to-have but a must-have.