As we enter the second half of the 2021-2022 school year, many of us are still reeling from the 2020-2021 school year, which was defined by massive changes to the learning landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders meant that students and teachers alike were forced to shift to online or hybrid learning overnight. Now, more than a year later, educators, students, and parents have been able to reflect on their experiences with online learning.
While many have faced obstacles in integrating distance learning—any abrupt change operates on a learning curve—it’s also become clear that technology-based learning is essential to education to allow students to learn from wherever they are and prepare them for the future. These key benefits allow us to engage students and bring them in as active participants in their continued education more fully.
Allow learning to happen anywhere
Hybrid learning is essential to this endeavor, fostering a dynamic learning environment that helps students learn from anywhere. It meets students where they are—tech-savvy, creative, ready to learn and, sometimes, living completely different lives than some of their peers. Some have dual households; others spend their days with caretakers who aren’t their primary caregivers; some have parents engaged with their learning while others do not or are often out of the home and unable to take a more active role in their child’s education.
With mobile technology, educators and learners can communicate in real time, using apps like Showbie and Explain Everything. Showbie allows educators to build a learning experience for students and educators can provide formative feedback. Educators can see exactly where their students are, make instructional adjustments and provide intervention as soon as the need arises. Using an app like Explain Everything allows students to demonstrate their learning by creating visuals, such as graphics, videos, voice over and so much more. This approach personalizes the student’s responses using their own creativity and this results in a more authentic learning experience.
With mobile technology, students are no longer confined to learning from within the four walls of a traditional classroom. Students can learn from anywhere and incorporate learning into their everyday lives seamlessly. Technology gives students the power to think independently while still being guided by teachers, helping them empathize and relate to the world around them.
Prepare students for their technology-full future
I can think back to going to a store in the early 80’s with a list of all the materials I was going to need to be successful for 1st grade–items like colored pencils, a pink eraser, #2 pencils, colored paper and more. As I get my kids ready for this school year and fill their backpacks with supplies that were on my list from nearly three decades ago, their backpacks also include a school-issued iPad, charging cable and charging block. As the decades go on and classroom adapt more mobile technology into their lesson plans, I can see that supply list vanishing.
Teachers today are not surprised by the fact that they are preparing students for jobs and a world with technology that hasn’t even been invented yet. A recent survey by Gallup found educators are well aware of the power of technology in fostering a well-rounded learning environment that excites students, along with preparing them for the future. The study also found that 75 percent of educators said technology-based lessons are more likely to help students with problem solving, critical thinking, and connecting learning to the real world.
The future may be uncertain, but one thing is not—the world can count on technological advancement across all platforms, extending further into everyday life as well as in professional settings. That’s why it’s vital to help students keep pace with technology, integrating it into their education and teaching them the ways of the world within a more formal educational environment.
How technology can help increase student engagement
Teachers know that creativity helps sustain student engagement and nurtures positive learning experiences. The same Gallup poll found 75 percent of teachers said students learn the most when they’re encouraged to creatively express what they’ve learned. Countless teachers are creative minds themselves, constantly devising new ways to reach students.
Technology does just that: meeting students where they are and empowering them to take charge of their learning through engaging activities. Today’s students were born into a world where tech is intrinsic to daily life. That is why it’s so important for our classrooms and teachers to meet students where they are at with the technology they know.
Technology can act as an accelerant to learning, and with the right implementation, that accelerant can get the entire classroom—whether online or in-person—ready to learn and excited for what’s next. Technology is creating a place where students can learn through exploration, take risks, make mistakes without feeling as though they’ve failed, and learn from those mistakes each step of the way.
That magic combination is when student engagement skyrockets. Considering students’ abilities and enthusiasm for ever-evolving technology, it may just be the key to developing a creative learning environment where students are tuned in to their teachers and peers. By equipping learners with tools to facilitate research and keep records of their creative successes, educators can also create an inclusive environment where those with unseen learning differences feel comfortable and heard.
The opportunities technology in the classroom offers are endless. These students have been surrounded by technology their whole lives and the classroom should be no exception. A partnership between students, teachers, and technology will foster education and has the potential to set a path for success and innovation for these bright young minds. As research and experience have shown, students will surely make the most of the technology we empower them with.