Spending on education technology in the US now exceeds $13B. Studies show that information and computer-assisted learning boosts academic achievement, improves learner engagement and reduces teacher burden by shaving time off the day.
But not all edtech is equally effective.
Today’s students, who have grown up with iPads and YouTube, seamlessly use technology at home and in the classroom to bring learning to life. For teachers, technology can help create engagement and a more immersive learning experience. It can also automate many administrative tasks to shave a few minutes off a teacher’s day while offering up valuable data around student performance and engagement with learning content.
But not all edtech is equally effective. To have impact, technology's use in the context of learning needs to be tightly woven into the learning pedagogy, guided by best practices for use, and teachers need to be fully trained and comfortable in its use.
More Than Just Tools in the Classroom
However, while research underscores that technology provides teachers with far more than simply a creative toolset, to be most successful tech tools need to be integrated into the curriculum.
According to national social studies teacher education guidelines, infusing technology into instruction should:
- Extend learning beyond what could be done without technology.
- Introduce technology in context.
- Include opportunities for students to study relationships among science, technology, and society.
- Foster the development of the skills, knowledge, and participation as good citizens in a democratic society.
- Contribute to the research and evaluation of social studies and technology.
When I was in the classroom—I am now a numeracy support coach for the board, and by the way still use tech when in classrooms—I used tech a lot. I used it for formative assessment so I could plan my next moves and understand where my students were daily.
Erika, grade 10 math and science teacher
Clear Guidelines Pave the Way for Teachers to Embrace Technology More Fully
I was able to create lessons with no preparation.
The International Society for Technology in Education additionally sets out clear guidelines and performance criteria for teachers and students regarding the use of technology. These extensive guidelines for teachers’ use of technology in instructional planning cover such topics as teacher professional development, classroom experiences and culture, communication with parents, caregivers and other stakeholders, and use of assessment data inside and outside of the classroom. For teachers looking to embrace technology more fully, ISTE’s criteria can help expand horizons and open new opportunities.
Technology Helps Teachers Engage—and Save Time
Day-to-day within the classroom technology can be instrumental in helping teachers engage and excite learners and shave time off a busy day. Use of intelligent agents and workflows can help guide students to desired outcomes, for instance by facilitating targeted communications based on areas of achievement, concern without the teacher needing to micromanage every step. Apps such as Edgenuity and StudyForge can help automate procedures, facilitate lesson planning and bring forward valuable resources to drive home concepts and enrich student learning experiences.
Every classroom in our school board has a smartboard. As a primary teacher, I found many interactive lessons in all subjects that engage the children. I was able to create lessons with no preparation. It was much faster than if I was making my own teaching tools.
Christine, grade 1 teacher
Fully leveraging one’s LMS can also help teachers save time.
Fully leveraging one’s LMS can also help teachers save time. For instance, teachers can use their LMS to quickly create or amend rubrics to clearly communicate learning expectations. They can also use polls, quizzes and discussion boards to facilitate classroom interaction, assess learning or capture student feedback. And, they can use video to quickly provide direct, personal in the moment feedback to students and encourage students to take photos of their work and upload to e-portfolios to capture and preserve student learning.
Brightspace Progress Dashboard
Many of our daily tasks are now facilitated through Google Classroom. I wish more teachers utilized these tools. For instance, my assessment is now done using Google Sheets and Google Keep. I don’t lug mark books back and forth from school anymore. I also use Google Calendar to show me my week at a glance. I always have access to it and I upload my calendar into Google classroom for the students. I wasn’t sure if they looked at it, honestly, then one month I was late posting and my students asked why I hadn’t updated the new calendar.
Michelle, grade 3-4 teacher
We take pictures of student products to capture all their learning!
Chris, tech integration leader
Using Tech to Provide That Extra Level of Support
I wish more teachers utilized these tools.
Technology can also be used to help teachers more easily reach those kids who require additional support. These students can easily become lost in a busy classroom or a frequently overwhelmed educational system. For instance, using analytics in an LMS, teachers can quickly identify those students who are struggling with the subject matter or lagging and quickly intervene with appropriate help. They can also use multimedia and other learning tools such as Read&Write to convert text to speech when delivering student feedback, build a scavenger hunt using Google Search or use Google Cardboard to take kids on a virtual field trip or on an underwater search for sharks, engaging those children who are kinetic or visual learners. And teachers can use their LMS workflows to release content in bite-sized, sequential chunks so students are not overwhelmed, have a clearly defined learning pathway and can celebrate learning victories in small, incremental ways.
Brightspace Assignment Release Conditions
I use Read&Write for Chrome to translate text to speech and to note feedback at intervals throughout my students’ writing process. Students did better by the end which saved hours when it came time to the final assessments. Plus, it helped students who didn't love reading, as they were able to listen to my feedback comments.
Suzanne, learning innovation consultant
For the start of the school year I created a Google Scavenger Hunt to get my students exploring Google Docs and Searches on their own,
Caitlin, blended learning coach
To Get the Most Out of Technology, Teachers Need to be Trained and Comfortable
. . . teacher’s own comfort level with technology plays a critical role in its successful use in the classroom.
Beyond incorporating technology into the learning pedagogy, teacher’s own comfort level with technology plays a critical role in its successful use in the classroom. There is still room for improvement in this area. While 70% to 80% of teachers and more than 80% of school leaders are open to innovative practices, and 53% of teachers now have students use technology in the classroom for projects, many teachers continue to feel ill-prepared in using potentially time-saving information and communication technology (ICT) in the classroom. Only 56% of teachers state they have received training in ICT, and only 43% felt well prepared to use ICT in the classroom, with 18% a high need for professional development in this area.
Used Effectively, Technology Becomes a Teacher’s Best Friend
If woven effectively into the learning pedagogy and when teachers have the appropriate comfort level, technology can be a busy teacher’s trusted teaching assistant and an administrative best friend. Information can be quickly shared with an entire classroom using an LMS or Google Classroom’s Share to Classroom extension. Rubrics can be quickly created and marking done using an LMS’s rubric and grade book tools. And voice command tools such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Home make it easy for multi-tasking teachers to search for information to share with students, schedule appointments, make phone calls and even quickly and efficiently buy classroom supplies.
Rubric creation in Brightspace
I use Google Classroom to collect and return work and mass email parents, amongst other things.
Carl, grade 6 teacher
So, how is technology helping to engage your learners and making your teaching day better, simpler and easier? Can you count the ways?