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Technology and Its Impact in the Classroom

By McGraw-Hill Education 2 years agoNo Comments
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There have been lengthy and ongoing discussions about the impact technology is having on society as a whole, whether it is improving our lives, and the ways it may not. As educators are encouraged to use technology in the classroom, we must ask: how does it benefit the student and their ability to learn?

 

The Survey             

In 2015, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and MediaSmarts conducted a study of 4,043 K-12 teachers about how they use networked technology in the classroom. The first release of their findings covers the quantitative responses and focuses heavily on how many and what type. They also asked qualitative questions, which begin to give shape to some of the numbers and percentages we are seeing, but are discussed more in later reports.

 

Five Areas of Study

In reviewing the data, the researchers found five important messages in the results:

  1. Teachers feel it is important to teach digital literacy and are relatively comfortable doing so.
  2. The majority of teachers have access to networked technology and use it during their lessons.
  3. Teachers want more support for technology and more autonomy in how they use it.
  4. In the majority of schools and classrooms, students are not allowed to use personal devices. But in the areas where it is permitted, teachers incorporate smartphones or mp3 players into their lessons.
  5. Technology is used in two different ways, either to deliver content to students or for students to create content.

 

A Closer Look at the Findings

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is a broad term that the researchers narrowed down to eight specific skills. These skills are searching for information online, evaluating the credibility of information, staying safe on the internet, appropriate behavior, dealing with cyberbullying, analyzing messages presented online, privacy terms and settings, and understanding how companies collect and use information online. Ninety percent of the teachers surveyed believed it was important for their students to learn all eight of these skills.

Networked Technology

Networked technology includes smartboards, desktop computers, and laptop computers. These are the most common forms, and the study found that 97% of teachers have these technologies in their classrooms. Most of the teachers responded that they use the technology frequently.

One area the researchers noted was the use of social media in the classroom. The researchers commented that smartboards, desktop computers, and laptops replace more traditional teaching methods that were already being used in the classroom. On the other hand, social media had no closely related traditional teaching method that is could replace, making it a form of networked technology that has yet to be adopted by a number of instructors.

Support

The support needed includes infrastructure support like improved wi-fi connectivity, software upgrades, and faster response time when something breaks. But teachers also want more support for developing and designing creative ways to engage their students with technology.

The survey respondents were asked if they felt their district provided enough support and training for using networked technology. Fifty-four percent of the teachers said they “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that their districts do. Many of the teachers wrote in additional comments explaining their need for additional support.

A separate question asked about support for incorporating technology into the curriculum. Again, about 50% of teachers said they have adequate support, and many went on to explain the need for more support.

Personal Devices

The researchers broke down the responses by grade level. They reported that kindergarten is a “low-tech zone” when it comes to personal devices. That changes for older students, where almost 60% are permitted to bring and use their personal devices. Where students are allowed to bring and use their own devices, the networked technology changes from smartboards and desktops to tablets and smartphones.

Consuming and Creating Content

The majority of technology use focuses on delivering content to students. Teachers use videos, videogames, graphic novels, and other technology to make content engaging. When it comes to creating content, 38% of teachers have reported that they have their students create videos. Across all forms of content, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, videogames, and graphic novels, students are more likely to use technology to consume content than to create it.

Technology's impact in the classroom

How Can You Integrate Technology into your Lesson Plans?

The odds are good that as a teacher, you have access to networked technology in your classroom. But even with all the information we’ve covered in this study, the question probably still is, “So what do I do?”

As noted above, teachers feel they need more support with how to use technology and how to incorporate it into their curriculum. The study does provide some support for teachers looking to incorporate more technology, by asking the respondents for feedback on their most successful use of technology. This provides new ideas for us to consider incorporating.

The survey reveals that most technology use in the classroom is to consume content. Across all platforms, including videos, videogames, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social media, the rate of use to access content is much higher than the rate of use to create content. Yet, when we consider what the teachers describe as their most successful uses of technology, the majority of successful experiences stem from students creating content.

Creating content reminds us of the revisions to Bloom’s Taxonomy, where the initial forms of learning focus on recalling and explaining. But as we move up to greater understanding and toward mastery of the topic, we need to move to creating new or original work.

The first example shared by the researchers has students creating content through coding. Several teachers discussed the Hour of Code (sometimes called the “Day of Code”) as their best pedagogical experience with technology. All the students were engaged in creating their coding projects, leading them to realize the bigger, more important role coding can have in their lives. The Hour of Code is operated by a non-profit organization called Code.org and is designed to introduce students to coding languages. Their website offers a variety of projects for students to work on, and even includes projects for classrooms without internet access or for when the access goes down. As they state, they’ve reached 100 million students, and the project has expanded beyond just their offerings.

The second main use of networked technology to create content asks students to use technology to participate as citizens in important issues. Teachers are using specific technologies, like Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, to have students respond to current and emerging issues. These technologies allow the students to receive feedback on their ideas from the larger community. Several of the teachers surveyed said that these technologies expanded their community beyond their classroom and gave their students a voice. Networked technology gives students a new opportunity to share their ideas in a real context and get feedback on those ideas that is not connected to a teacher’s evaluation for a grade.

As teachers discussed engaging students in citizenship, two issues were specifically mentioned. The first is Idle No More, a movement which asks others to “join in a peaceful revolution to honor indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land and water.” The second issue is the R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word. As the organization describes, “The R-word is the word ‘retard(ed)’. Why does it hurt? The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory.” They ask everyone to take a pledge to stop use of the word. These two social justice issues are only a tiny sample of the issues that could engage students as citizens and as content creators, but they help to give an idea of how teachers can help students use technology to access information about issues and to create their own content about those issues.

 

What Does It Mean for Teachers?

Networked technology gives us a huge number of options for teaching through a variety of platforms. As we look at the results of the study, there are two major action areas for teachers. The first is asking our schools and districts to support the technology infrastructure and development. The second is to reconsider how we are using technology in the classroom. Are we allowing students to engage in the wider community and to become content creators? We can seek out and engage in technologies that allow students to reach mastery with the topic by becoming active and creating new ideas to contribute.

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