Schools need to focus on teaching and not let technology determine how kids get taught.
Tips for School & District Administrators

Finding the Best Approach to Classroom Technology

By Brian Gatens

Schools are pivoting toward greater and greater use of classroom technology. Whether we’re talking about low-cost laptops, websites to organize student work, online tutorials or the (eventual) introduction of virtual reality glasses, we can’t lose sight of the reality that machines cannot solve our classroom challenges.

Instead, teachers need to keep relying on solid teaching strategies, attention to student needs, and a sensible, balanced approach to the tools at our disposal. There is no silver bullet for better performance. If anyone tells you different, most likely they’re trying to sell you something.

Here’s how to find the right balance with classroom tech:

Recognize technology for what it is

Schools need to focus on teaching and not let technology determine how kids get taught.It is folly to believe devices or software will single-handedly improve the education of your students. I’ve learned time and again that no matter how visually attractive or “research-based” it may be, even the best technology succeeds only when it’s paired with solid, time-tested classroom practices. Thinking otherwise wastes time and money.

Begin with your academic goals in mind and choose what you need to help achieve those goals. Don’t approach this from the wrong direction, by inserting the technology and then building the learning around it.

Seek your colleagues’ feedback

Today’s connected culture lets us seek help from the person in the next classroom, the next state or even the next country. When you want to bring new technology into your classroom, do some simple Internet research to see who is using it and how. (I’m still amazed at how we can find answers for just about any question we have.)

Beware of people who make glorious, boastful claims about technology. Instead, look for colleagues who integrate tech into their overall approach to learning. Anyone who is attracted to new technology because it’s a “shiny new thing” will abandon it as quickly as they adopt it.

Let tech improve classroom efficiency

One of the best uses of classroom technology is to make everyday classroom practices more efficient. One example is a learning management system (LMS) that puts all student work, assignments and projects in one place on the Internet.

Another common example is Google Classroom. Students, parents and teachers love that Google has created a single “pipe” to guide the flow of assignments, projects and collaborative work. Gone are the days when a child would lose an assignment pad, or be unclear about a homework assignment. This is especially powerful for special-needs students who struggle with organization and deadlines.

Consider the present and the future

Schools have a responsibility to address the here-and-now of students’ lives by working with them to develop skills and attitudes that help them immediately. Along with that, a forward-thinking classroom will consider what students have to do later in their academic careers, and what their post-schooling work life will look like.

Technology helps with this by enabling students to organize their learning, conduct high-quality and accurate research, and collaborate with peers. Learning to use technology this way early in life will help students move more easily into the independence-minded college experience and the collaborative nature of today’s workplace.

You have to keep revisiting these simple principles for technology usage. Don’t get pulled into the trap of marketers who try to convince you that technology is more effective than good teaching practices. And, finally, seek out colleagues you can teach and those who can teach you.

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