One of the most popular articles on eSchool Media is a surprising one to the editors: “6 apps that block social media distractions.” This story, which seemed a bit counter-intuitive for us to write (being a tech-cheerleading publication in nature), has held the top spot by a massive margin for almost three years now; which had the editors considering the question, “Are there technologies that should simply be avoided in the classroom?”
Movie Clip of One Technology Exasperation:
Of course, the editors then had to ponder what would make a technology easier to avoid than try to implement, and came up with a list of broad technologies and technology trends that either A) caused, rather than eased, more problems and concerns in the classroom, and/or B) were not evolved enough to make an actual difference in teaching or learning.
And, not wanting to simply talk technology trash without offering some useful information, the editors then came up with the technology options that may be better suited for the intended classroom task.
See any technologies you believe should be avoided that didn’t make the list? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below.
5 Technologies to Avoid in the Classroom
1. Social Media:This was the easiest to choose, thanks to our reigning king of articles mentioned above. Though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for informal, personal use, most of education still has problems implementing these larger social media platforms for meaningful teaching and learning without running into privacy, security and cyberbullying headaches.
Better Option? Classroom-created forums. Many technology-savvy educators have deduced that perhaps the best way to mitigate social media distractions while still allowing for collaboration and discussion is to use a classroom or subject-specific forum or platform. In fact, according to EDUCAUSE, one of the core functions of the post-LMS era is to use a “next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE)” that “supports collaboration at multiple levels and make it easy to move between private and public digital spaces. The NGDLE must also include a requirement to move past a “walled garden” approach to locking down a course’s LMS, and instead enable a learning community to make choices about what parts are public and what parts are private.”
Outside of cloud-based or platform-enabled communication spaces, some apps even allow for project and assignment-only collaboration and organization, such as Slack (which Stanford uses for team communication and work management) and Trello (a project management app). Both are available for Android, as well.
2. Games: There’s a lot to be said for gaming in specific areas of education, like for learning how to code or applying mathematical concepts to real-life technology. In fact, eSchool News recently wrote an article touting the benefits of game-based learning and describing how schools are effectively using game-based learning with great results. However, for the average non-STEM heavy course, using actual games to learn is still in its research infancy as to whether or not games provide any major benefits to learning. Compound this with the unfortunate reality that most gaming is still male-centric, doesn’t usually allow for multi-player experiences, and is new to many educators, the time it takes to vet and properly implement games may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.
Better Option? Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR). With AR or VR, educators can still boost student engagement while incorporating some of the best characteristics of visual technology: interaction and visual learning. With AR and VR, teachers can help students better understand abstract or difficult concepts, take learning outside the classroom while still incorporating technology, and strengthen emotional engagement in course material–all while incorporating the traditional gaming characteristics of play and humor. Read more about AR in K-12 here, as well as apps for AR here. Read more about VR in education here, as well as how some schools are seeing massive STEM gains with VR here.
(Next page: 3 more technologies to avoid in the classroom)
3. Untested Apps and Online Tools: Thanks to the explosive growth of mobile technology and its use in education, apps and digital resources and tools across a host of platforms are also available…perhaps dizzyingly so. Checking education apps and tools on any large platform, like the Apple Store, for educator-based comments and reviews is tedious; and often challenges like apps and tools that are never updated, or apps and tools that don’t actually perform as promised cause more headaches then they’re worth.
Better Option? Vetted apps and tools. Because of the overwhelming choice of apps and digital tools and resources that currently exist for education, some notable industry companies and organizations have taken the time to vet these tools for educators, using a selection process based on their own experience as well as feedback from teachers and administrators. For example, Common Sense Media reviews apps, digital tools and much more, providing feedback from educators when applicable. You can find their vetted apps here on eSchool News, as well as their “EdTech Eleven” monthly tool and resource picks here.
4. Anything That’s Not Accessible: With the growth of online and blended education options, as well as digital tools and technologies, accessibility has become a hot-button issue in education. Accessibility not only applies to technology hardware and software, but to school websites, classroom content, and literally anything on the cloud.
Better Option? Consult IT First. During an EDUCAUSE 2015 conference, a panel of education IT experts were asked to discuss accessibility issues as they related not just to overall school technology, but specifically to classroom materials and technology. EDUCAUSE even has its own IT Accessibility Constituent Group that its members can consult for accessibility advice. You can find a rundown of proactive accessibility considerations from a recent toolkit here, but it’s also a good idea to consult your school or district’s IT department before implementing any kind of new technology. A step-by-step guide for making online learning accessible is available here, and video accessibility compliance steps can be found here.
5. Device-Specific Technology: In the war of iPads versus Chromebooks versus Androids, honing in on apps, platforms or branded software that are only compatible with one kind of technology is usually a mistake, thanks to the quick turnover of many of these devices. Also, technology that doesn’t work well with others (think older LMS’ that refuse to integrate with other school or classroom software) is not a smart, future-looking option.
Better Option? Interoperable, Device-Agnostic Technology. According to educational experts, the best approach to supporting BYOD for instruction is the “device-agnostic” class. To help smooth out some of the BYOD-related bumps in the classroom, applications like Haiku Deck (presentation software), Tackk (a multimedia scrolling poster), and Snapguide (for creating step-by-step guides) are all offered in iOS, Android, and/or web versions. The latter, for example, uses a browser-based interface to allow students to access the application from any device–regardless of operating system–and use it online without having to worry about software incompatibility issues.
One of the newer entrants to the device-agnostic BYOD market is EXO U, a platform that allows teachers to share information and collaborate with students across multiple operating systems. Shan Ahdoot, CEO of the San Francisco-based firm, says such applications help educators get “everyone on the same page” quickly and effectively without wasting classroom time or IT resources. “The goal is to create a consistent experience from phone to laptop to interactive whiteboard,” says Ahdoot.