Friday, March 2, 2018

TECHNOLOGY IN TODAY’S CLASSROOM - by Jim Hooper, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at GCS

Just a few short years ago, the term “technology in the classroom” meant an overhead projector or CD player, or if you were lucky, a SMART board, which allowed teachers and students to interact with images projected on a screen. But, as innovations such as tablets were developed, as educational resources were offered online, and as costs decreased, more and more schools infused these new technologies into their curriculums. As technology has become more commonplace in schools, legitimate questions are often asked: What educational value does technology have in the classroom? Do students learn better using technology versus the traditional mode of teaching? Aren’t kids using technology too much?

The widespread adoption of technology has completely changed how teachers teach and students learn. Today’s technology enables students to learn independently and at their own pace. Almost all applications that a student may use on a device allow for individualized instruction. This includes remedial instruction for struggling students as well as accelerated instruction for gifted students. Having technology as a resource is a great help for teachers who need extra time with struggling students. When students are able to learn independently with technology, the teacher can either pull aside a small group for more individualized instruction or confer with individual students while they work with technology.

Three years ago, Greenville City Schools introduced iPads into first grade in a one-to one initiative (an iPad for each student) to provide help for students in reading and math. Specifically, the iPads were used with academic programs such as eSpark – an interactive online program that uses individual student data to target areas where the student is weakest in reading and math. The school district has continued to add iPads each year so now all students in grades Kindergarten through sixth grade have them to use both in the classroom and at home.

So, how are Greenville’s teachers using this new technology? Students typically use their iPad for about a half hour each day in the morning or afternoon – usually with a program such as eSpark – and at other times throughout the day when appropriate to the day’s lesson, such as for research. Teachers still provide instruction to their classes and work individually with students. Some teachers use certain apps to provide engaging short educational videos or simulations to emphasize concepts they have already taught. Additionally, many textbooks now have an online component, so teachers can assign reading or math homework without having to have the students take their hardbound textbook home. Quizzes and tests can now be taken online, and either graded immediately or sent to the teacher for grading. This reduces the amount of paper used, and eliminates the excuse “My dog ate my homework.”

Technology continues to prepare students for the future workforce. Nine out of ten students believe that using technology in the classroom would help prepare them for the digital future. Jobs that may not have had a digital component in the past, may have one now. Education is no longer just about memorizing facts and vocabulary words; it’s about solving complex problems and being to collaborate with others in the workforce. These skills are essential in order to be successful in this day and age.

Technology changes by the minute, and, as educators, we need to keep up with the times in order to best prepare our students for this ever-changing world that we live in. Above all, technology should help facilitate learning in the classroom. Whether providing time for teachers to work individually with students, engaging students in interesting work, or allowing for students to work at their own their own pace, moving classrooms into the 21st century is a priority for Greenville schools and their students.

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