At the intersect between education and technology

The Voice of Technology in the Classroom

George Couros, Canadian educator of innovative teaching says, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformation.”

To be sure, teaching was a totally different experience a generation ago. That was an age where teachers alone possessed information and presented it to students in the classroom, and students absorbed it. Today, much of what the teacher presented in days of yore, is available to students online. Therefore, teachers are now recreating their role in the classroom, with the aid of technology.

Teachers no longer spoon-feed information during school hours. Instead, they use technology to assist students in solving problems, in enhancing and collaborating in the learning process. Says Andrew Kim, a Steelcase WorkSpace Futures researcher, “More and more, classrooms are becoming places where knowledge is created versus consumed by students.”

However, two surveys of teachers undertaken in recent times, one by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC, and the other by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, California, reveal the existence of a widespread belief among teachers that students using digital technology with such frequency is hindering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks. Associate director for Research at Pew, Kristen Purcell, says that there is another perspective to these research findings – that is, the education system needs to change according to the way students learn. She said, ““What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information. They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”

The students of today grew up with digital technology, and it is part of their daily lives, and so, a vital component of their educational process. Today’s students have become more independent in the classroom than in the past, and expect technology to be a requirement in education, rather than an added benefit from the school system. The corporate world is an added ally in this process, as they provide complementing apps to help the students in their quest for knowledge, while aiding teachers in a changing teaching environment.

New technologies in schools are always considered an extension of teaching, an enhancement of what the teacher provides rather than something to replace the teacher. Technology helps in lesson preparation, simplifying the teacher’s task. Teachers also use technology as an aid to assessing students. There are apps like ClassFlow which allow the teacher to determine how well the class has understood a particular lesson. It allows the teacher to determine how well individual students have comprehended the lesson, and, in turn, the teacher is able to provide appropriate feedback to students. Technology has helped break down the boundaries of the four-walled classroom, allowing students and teachers to share ideas and collaborate in ways that were not possible before.

With the advent of technology, learning at all levels is happening remotely as well as onsite. For instance, students access content online away from their classrooms and use the knowledge in the classroom subsequently, by engaging in discussions or group work. As Andrew Kim says, “What’s interesting is that as learning is becoming more virtual, the virtual activities are actually becoming more physical. You might say the virtual and the physical are meeting in the middle.”

And so, it is obvious that technology will not replace teachers. However, teachers who use technology will probably replace those who don’t.

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