While many parents may find themselves wishing that interactive gaming, Facebook, and smartphones had never been invented, these and other technologies can have beneficial effects on classroom learning and lifetime education.
Students today are encountering Internet-based technologies in school in ways unimaginable even five years ago. On the whole, education policy makers and teachers alike have generally been impressed by the ways in which computers can enhance student learning in most disciplines.
Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students
The United States Department of Education said in a report titled Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students:
“Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons. Moreover, when technology is used as a tool to support students in performing authentic tasks, the students are in the position of defining their goals, making design decisions, and evaluating their progress”
Such learning is often interactive. While computer programs and learning models are no substitute for careful lesson plans and curricula, they can work together quite powerfully.
iPads in the classroom
The growing use of iPads in the classroom is one example. High School English students are able to read novels on their devices, then add comments and chat with their classmates about major themes and plot developments in real time — often outside of school hours.
Older students have also proved the worth of an iPad for to foreign language instruction. The wealth of language resources available through specialized apps and mobile-enhanced programs has made it easier than ever to interact with and learn from native speakers.
Even primary school children as young as kindergarten are benefiting from this form of interactive technology. According to a 2012 Time magazine special report, students with early exposure to classroom iPad use have an increased rate of literacy and better mathematical abilities by the time they reach the third grade than peers in more “traditional” classrooms.
App developers have been quick to follow this trend, creating a range of education-driven programs to appeal to teachers and parents both. In fully wired classrooms, teachers can give students space to explore new subjects or areas on their own, but all while monitoring their progress. For Math activities a teacher can direct all students to complete a basic task through an app on their tablet computers, then remotely track students’ progress through a calibrated “master” screen. This gives the teacher the opportunity to spend more time with those who are struggling, while offering more challenging problems to those who need something harder—all without sacrificing time in class, or “dumbing things down” for the benefit of the whole.
Technology is also making several ground breaking changes to delivery and assessment of education including:
• International connections and links between virtual classrooms. Rural students are often able to leverage video technology to stream lessons. Places where it is difficult to find and attract quality teachers—remote villages in Africa, for instance, or war-torn parts of Southeast Asia—often benefit the most from these sorts of arrangements.
• The ability to take standardized tests on computer. Graduate school exams like the GRE and the GMAT are increasingly being offered as computer-adaptive tests. Mainstream exams like the SAT and grade level exams may soon follow. Adaptive tests serve questions based on real-time student performance, and are usually able to give at least an unofficial score immediately on completion.
The integration of technology with classroom learning is already showing great promise for future developments.