Teaching has never been about presenting information and letting students passively absorb it. Great teachers have always worked to build relationships with their students as individuals, breaking down their walls and addressing their personal challenges in order to nurture a lifelong love of learning.
So when digital devices started making their way into classrooms, many teachers were understandably wary about how technology would affect the more personal aspects of teaching. Would students disappear into the digital world and cease to be engaged learners? Would the role of the teacher be diminished or even become obsolete?
It’s been several years since digital devices and tech became pervasive in K-12 schools, and we can safely say that teachers have more opportunity than ever to nurture their students on a personal basis. Moreover, they’re equipping students with the skills they need to succeed in the digital-centric workplace. Here are three truths we’ve learned about tech in the classroom so far:
1. Tech enhances teaching methodologies, it doesn't replace a good teacher.
The best teachers have always had a large tool chest of engagement tactics to keep students involved in learning. Most of us had a teacher who was famous for a special project they did with students each year — whether it was a mock war to help students understand geographic and economic tensions or a group assignment to stage a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Adding edtech to the classroom is like upgrading that tool chest to a set of power tools. Students can collaborate in new and exciting ways, and teachers can bring more lessons to life. That’s not to say every digital lesson needs a gimmick — on the contrary, even routine lessons can feel more immersive when students can research, present, and interact with the material in their own ways.
"Advocates for classroom tech say these tools don't replace the teacher. Rather, they create a learning partnership between teacher and student,” said LanSchool user Shelby Horne, a sixth-grade teacher at Orchard Elementary, in a recent USA Today article.
The traditional system of paper-based instruction certainly put the teacher at the center of every lesson, but we can’t pretend that system fit with every learning style and personality or even every lesson.
With digital devices, curious students can explore and incorporate outside information into their learning, gaining valuable research and critical thinking skills. Shy and reserved students gain a more comfortable way to get involved through polling, digital hand raising, and private messaging with the teacher, ultimately leading to greater confidence and more personal feedback. Teachers can discreetly guide faster workers into the next lesson while other students finish an assignment, making class time more productive.
Classroom technology should never be set-it-and-forget-it. The teacher plays an important role in personalizing and guiding the lessons for each learner and supporting those learners emotionally as they undertake the K-12 journey.
2. It's okay for the teacher to not have the answer.
"When we release ourselves from the model of expecting the classroom teacher to be the ultimate expert, we are joining alongside our students and modeling for them what curiosity and learning look like in action," Shelby said.
Are most workers expected to have the answer to every problem that arises in their day-to-day jobs? Or do most of us treat Google like a second brain?
Having technology in the classroom has opened up the same opportunity for teachers. They no longer have to know everything — they can engage in learning alongside their students when the opportunity arises, and as a result, build richer and more nuanced lessons.
Simultaneously, they’re modeling modern problem solving for students. Being able to search for an answer removes the artificial walls around the classroom, and brings school learning into the 21st century.
3. Tech should inspire students and teachers alike.
Using tech in the classroom gives students the opportunity to become content creators across a larger variety of formats. Students can try their hand at everything from web coding and design to robotics, music production, filmmaking, architectural design, interactive presentation creation, and so much more. The type of career exploration and skills-based training we used to only receive in college is now being incorporated into K-12 classes.
This is obviously inspiring for students, as they explore future careers and hobbies in a safe and guided environment, but it’s also incredibly inspiring for teachers. Great teachers approach class every day thinking not only about the day’s lessons but the long-term outcomes for every student. It’s exciting to see each student learning a highly diverse range of skills and finding areas where they can thrive.
It’s a Great Time to Be a Great Teacher
Great teachers have always shaped their students’ futures by connecting with them on a personal level, bringing lessons to life, and building the learning skills they need to succeed. Technology makes it easier than ever to have these breakthrough moments, no matter a kid’s background or learning style.
Students who have access to technology incorporated seamlessly into their lessons by a loving and strong teacher have a great opportunity to thrive in the future workplace. That’s why we proudly advocate the use of edtech in the classroom. Innovative teaching happens at the intersection of guided learning and the use of powerful technology. We believe the combination of great teachers and great tools can bring about bigger and better outcomes for all students.
Interested in learning more about how a successful 1:1 program empowers students and teachers alike? Check out our case study with Elmira City School District!