But that begs the question: how can we use them? The point of bringing technology into the classroom is not to do the same tasks that could be done using paper and pencils, or markers and a whiteboard. The point is to do something new, exciting and, most importantly, engaging.
So, let’s take a look at some of the innovative ways teachers across the country are using some of the most popular technology in today’s classrooms.
The Big Screen
1. Interactive displays: A few years back, interactive whiteboards came on the market. They took the classroom by storm, but were rather limiting in what they could be used for… and for how long they could be used, due to short lightbulb life, and fickleness regarding light and glare. As technology has evolved, so too has the screen; the revamped version is the interactive display, which is essentially a large touchscreen TV that can “Why not arrange a video interview with an author?”function like a whiteboard or a shareable computer screen. As well as adding some pizazz to lessons by presenting webpages, videos and animated PowerPoints, which you can annotate live from the front of the classroom, teachers have used these displays to bring the outside in. Is your class reading a book? Why not arrange a video call with the author and get the students to interview them? Are you learning about Egypt? You can take a virtual tour or go on a scavenger hunt without leaving the classroom.
2. Interactive tables: Before children are even at the age where they are able to sit through a lecture-style lesson or be engaged by a webpage or video call, there are interactive tables that can be used to elevate lessons. These large touch screens can sit at waist level for young children, and allow a communal and tactile way for students to practice Maths, writing, Art and more. Most tables come with built-in activities that suit the target age group; although these may not be stimulating for all students, the group setting allows some children to hone their social skills by helping others with the academic side. These tables also have the benefit of being accessible to children with special educational needs (SEN), and being of particular interest to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, due to their tactile properties.
Small and mighty
3. Tablets and laptops: Technology doesn’t have to be big to be effective. These smaller gadgets can easily be used with both one-on-one activities and groups. Tablets are a great way to fill in every possible minute of teaching. Do you have a spare five minutes before lunch? That’s a perfect opportunity to break out a Maths app. There are always a few students who finish assignments early – let them practice reading on the tablets. Placing these tools in strategic learning areas can give students a space where they know they can go and be productive while the teacher is focusing on helping another student. When planning a multimedia project, you can’t do any better than a tablet. These handheld devices allow students to take photos, create videos, draw, animate and make music, allowing each project to take on a life of its own, and each student to experiment with their interests. As with the larger interactive displays, tablets can be utilised to connect with sister schools via video chat, or to engage students while they are outside of the classroom by having a live webcam for class pets, experiments or gardens.
Additionally, mirror technology allows teachers to interact with each of the students’ devices, eliminating the worry that they will be side-tracked on a non-approved webpage. This technology also allows for easy sharing “Handheld units allow teachers to gain anonymous responses.”of final results, and for real-time collaboration with the whole class, which can be shared on the larger screen. With the slightly more traditional - but in no way outdated - laptop, you have the ability to start a class blog or website. Computers can be used to do much of what is described above, albeit with somewhat less ease of movement.
4. Audience response: These ‘clicker’ style systems have been used in universities to measure attendance and class engagement for a number of years. Primary and Secondary schools can reap the benefits in their classrooms too, providing a fun and competitive way to learn. Small, handheld wireless units allow teachers to gain anonymous responses on opinion-based or multiple choice-style questions without the need to get students to raise their hands, which we know can influence answers. Not only that, but these systems collect the data, showing change over time, providing real-time feedback for teachers on areas of the curriculum that need more review or particular students who require additional attention. Teachers have been leading classes using stimulating activities and trivia games for a while. This is not just a high-tech version, but also allows for limitless surveys, quizzes and data analysis. Use the responses to encourage discussion around sensitive topics, and to engender an atmosphere of friendly competition between peers.
5. Visualisers: There is no longer a need for the whole class to huddle around one petri dish, or to pass around a single artefact. Now you can project the live video clearly for everyone to see, without a bulky trolley, and without the need for making dozens of blotchy copies. In conjunction with a computer or interactive display, teachers are able to manipulate 3D objects and to annotate live for the class.
There’s no doubt that 21st century students are tech-savvy. With so many used to using smartphones and tablets in their daily life, the tech-friendly classroom has become a place where they are free to explore their skills and interests. For the majority of students, regardless of age, will be accustomed to using technology like this in the classroom. Lessons that involve technology will be far more engaging than those that do not, meaning they’ll be more likely to stay on track and complete their work.
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