- Increasing use of digital learning tools means classrooms are modernizing
- Digital tools that boost engagement can improve academic outcomes
- See related story: Technology is key to educating the next generation
Some of my most vivid school memories involve teachers struggling to use overhead projectors: placing a printed sheet on the glass and fumbling to align it properly to project an image onto the wall. Students would laugh as the teachers mumbled about the annoyances of technology. Now think about how far the classroom has come since then–schools stocked with iPads and tablets, interactive touchscreens, and even virtual reality headsets.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic accelerated the shift to technology adoption in schools. However, this push to digitize doesn’t just involve remote learning technologies, but also tools for in-person learning. As a result, the classroom is modernizing, and pixels are replacing pencils. But the tech is also much easier to implement and operate than that of days of yore. No more fumbling with transparent sheets and overhead projectors.
Let’s break down how these new technologies are working in practice and the ways they can support better educational outcomes.
Technology demonstrably helps keep students engaged in their lessons and facilitate better learning in a digital world. While some argue technology is a distraction in the classroom – which can certainly be true if it’s not implemented properly – it also helps students to be focused and engaged in lessons.
Some prominent tools include interactive touchscreens in classrooms that promote and support active learning, a strategy for engaging students in classroom activities with more hands-on activities. These touchscreens help bring learning alive, off the page and into the actual world. These touch screens can facilitate engagement across subjects, even in unlikely places.
One noteworthy example is science education, specifically anatomy. In traditional lab classes, dissecting frogs and other animals can be challenging due to animal-welfare concerns and resource limitations. Interactive touchscreens, however, offer an alternative. Students can virtually dissect organisms, providing them with a deep understanding of anatomy without the need for physical specimens. This approach not only enhances engagement but also aligns with ethical considerations in education.
Why is engagement important? One study found that active learning significantly increases student performance in the classroom: Students were 1.5 times more likely to fail a class that was primarily lecture-based as opposed to interactive. When students can touch things and interact, as opposed to watching a teacher write notes on a chalkboard and copying it into their notebooks, test scores improve.
What’s more, technology can help students retain information for the long term. Touchscreen and tablet technology enables students to actively explore and manipulate digital content, transforming abstract concepts into tangible and comprehensible experiences. The tactile nature of touchscreens allows learners to engage with subjects in a way that textbooks or traditional teaching methods cannot replicate, and that engagement also boosts retention.
Consider this: Research shows that an average learner forgets 70 percent of what they learned after 24 hours and 90 percent of what they learned after a week. But research demonstrates that students who engage with interactive content retain information more effectively via enhanced information processing, contributing to improved performance and better test scores.
Interactive learning can also elicit emotional responses, which in turn impacts retention. When students are emotionally engaged in a lesson or activity, it has been shown to enhance memory consolidation. Interactive technologies have the capacity to create emotionally resonant experiences, whether through gamification, simulations, or immersive storytelling. These emotionally charged experiences are then more likely to be remembered.
So, whether it’s complex mathematical concepts, historical events, or scientific principles, digital technologies offer a dynamic platform for enhancing memory retention and ensuring that learning extends beyond the classroom.
Adaptive learning technologies are another transformative aspect of accessibility in education and have the power to revolutionize the traditional classroom experience. This approach leverages artificial intelligence and data analysis to customize educational content for students, recognizing their unique strengths and weaknesses.
Adaptive learning technology provides insights into data to help teachers understand students’ learning processes and patterns. Adaptive learning systems can track data from a variety of sources, providing insights into student progress, engagement, and performance. Educators can then leverage those insights to create tailored, personalized learning experiences.
There are various new adaptive learning platforms, including Smart Sparrow and ScootPad. Teachers merely sign up and input data, or provide access to it, in order for the technology to do the more difficult analytical work. In other words, these platforms don’t necessarily require more time or effort from already overburdened teachers. Educators can also integrate adaptive learning with a centralized device management platform to collect and process all that data from multiple technologies. Teachers can then monitor how students are actually using their devices and how well they are performing.
Of course, it’s important to strike a balance between technology and traditional teaching methods, ensuring that technology supports educational goals rather than replacing human interaction and critical thinking. Technology is a powerful tool in education, but it is not a replacement for human teachers.
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