Technology is making the classrooms of today almost indistinguishable to those who finished school even a decade ago. Where once a school would be lucky to have one clunky, inefficient desktop computer in a couple of classrooms, now children have access to laptops (at a minimum), mobile devices, and Cloud services.
The rate of innovation makes it ever more difficult to differentiate the good, useful technology for children from glorified toys that are less efficient than the traditional methods. But when the technology is of benefit to the schoolroom, it can significantly enhance the learning experience for the student, and better prepare them for the realities of high-tech working in the modern world.
Some examples of technologies being used to excellent effect in schools include:
With basic collaboration technologies, it’s much easier now for students to work together on group projects. They’re able to share and edit documents together, communicate in real time and collect notes in a centralised space. It is allowing teachers to set more in-depth and frequent collaboration exercises for students, knowing that they will be able to work together as part of normal classwork, and not necessarily have to organise extra-curricular time to meet up at a library in order to complete projects.
Thanks to the online learning programs that combine digital resources, videos, VoIP communications and the like into comprehensive education tools, remote learning is giving students in the most remote regions of the country access to education of an equivalent quality to being in the classroom. For students in the city remote learning is helping, too – giving them access to resources that their own school may lack.
Education technology is also helping teachers be more effective. From the most basic (mobile apps and digital whiteboards to help represent information in the most effective and dynamic manner to students), through to social networks to exchange ideas with other teachers, there are a wealth of technology resources that educators can use to enrich the experience they provide their students.
Textbooks on laptops or mobile devices aren’t just good for the child because they remove the weight from their backpacks. They’re good because they can be more involved learning experiences, with online activities such as quizzes, videos, animation and other rich media features that make the process of learning more engaging and beneficial to the student. It’s easier to create annotations and notes within the books themselves, too, making study a more efficient and productive process.
Google and Wikipedia, Twitter and even Facebook can be enormously beneficial resources for students. It’s important to make sure they learn how to use these resources correctly in order to still provide the kind of verifiable depth of research that they would have previously found from a trip to the library, but used right these resources will help students find greater depths of up-to-the-minute information.
Gone are the days where students will sit down and write for hours at a time until their hands ache. Digital networks are enabling students to be tested in a way that is far more efficient and appropriate to real-world work processes. Multiple choice quizzes have always been a part of digital learning, but now we’re also starting to see automated tracking and analysis of student performance, and more interactive tests that require students to generate content rather than choose options from a menu.
Tying this all together is the fact that schools now have access to fast, reliable, wireless broadband, which is enabling a wide range of applications, from video conferencing with other schools around the world (a perfect way to enable cultural exchange), video streaming for tutorials or films, and roaming, which enhances productivity by keeping students connected to the school network at all times, saving on the shut down and start up process.