As education continues to develop through the integration of technology in and outside the classroom, the mentality among many teachers has started to shift as well. There used to be a fear that technology would eventually replace the teacher, but the more prevalent view now is that it is a tool which can be applied to enhance conventional teaching rather than replace it. It is with this mindset that a lot of teachers have successfully integrated technology with their classes, without losing the human and emotional factors between teachers and students which are so vital to education. With that in mind, we would like to share a few tips on how to improve learning outcomes in the classroom with the help of technology.
Create a tech friendly environment
In order for technology to be the effective tool it’s meant to be, everybody needs to get on board. Make sure that teachers, students, parents and administrators are aware of the decision to integrate technology into education. They should be made to feel comfortable, and fully understand that upgrading traditional educational practices through the use of technology is an opportunity, not a threat. Only once everyone involved with the process of education agrees with and embraces technology integration can the benefits be realised. After you have reached this level of collaboration and support, everyone involved should be open to the idea of a modern approach to both teaching and learning. Once the right school environment is fostered, policies can be put in place and you can begin to focus on the best ways technology can be implemented.
Training! Training! Training!
Since everyone is not as savvy as you might think, it’s important to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with the use of technology. Many teachers tend to shy away from applying technology in the classroom as they are unsure how to use it effectively; others are afraid that using it too much will devalue their status as an instructor. A healthy balance must be achieved. Professional development should be provided on how to integrate technology into the curriculum, in a way that allows teachers to have a clear-cut idea of when and how to use it. Students should also be trained and boundaries need to be set, so that their technology usage is regulated in a way that strictly aids their learning.
Technology: Part of the daily schedule
Once policies are put into place, technology can be embedded into everyday lessons. Look for ways to adapt teaching practices and lectures to benefit both student and teachers. Decide which materials and resources should be made use of. Ideas such as ‘flipping the classroom’ through the use of technology should be considered. Pedagogical models such as this can free up class time for more student and teacher engagement through group discussions, brainstorming, quizzes, additional exercises and supplemental material. Since lectures and instructional videos can be made available to students prior to lessons, you can completely revolutionize time spent in the classroom. Clearly, as this may significantly modify the school schedule, teachers will need to adapt accordingly. Remember: to successfully integrate technology into a course you must first identify the desired learning outcomes. Only then can you select appropriate technology.
Redesign your curriculum
Your curriculum should be tailored in such a way that it supports the use of technology. Decisions about which objectives are to be assessed through technology need to be laid out and supported. This will require some basic re-formatting of the curricula so that the technological practices are made a part of the standard curriculum of subjects. For example, in subjects such as Science, you could supplement the curricula to include advanced tools for experimentation and research, creating a more practical approach to learning which is hands-on and experiential.
Match technology to student abilities
Don’t set your students up for failure. Make sure to adjust the use of technology so that it matches the abilities of students based on prior assessments. The use of technology needs to be eased in and students should not be expected to master new gadgets and methods all at once. A properly trained teacher can help support and guide them to gradually adopt technology, so that it eventually becomes a significant part of their everyday learning. Teachers should track the performance and progress of the students through regular feedback.
Make time for peer collaboration
Encouraging peer collaboration for problem- solving and knowledge-sharing not only builds communication skills, but leads to in-depth learning and comprehension. Working in groups leads to better understanding and is an effective way to improve learning outcomes. Together students can discover new ways of using the technology provided, within dedicated learning environments. Collaborative learning allows students to take advantage of the technology that is part of their curriculum, while shedding new light upon effective ways of using it.
Project based learning
PBL allows students to apply practical skills to the subject matter and realize its significance in real-life situations. Integrating technology into PBL is a great way to assess collaboration. There are many tools available to create products for PBL that build technology literacy skills.
As you can see from the list above implementing technology into the classroom is something which requires a lot of thought, and can be daunting at first. There’s one tip we can share, and that is to start with one thing and one thing only, and make sure you master it. Often when you try and implement several changes at the same time, results suffer because of a failure to fully commit to any one of them. By focusing on mastering one at a time, you have more control over a gradual change and more chance of achieving your goals.