Over 50 years ago, Bob Dylan said “the times they are a’changin,” and oh how right he was. The educational landscape that today’s students are experiencing is drastically different from the classrooms we knew as students. But, in this case, change is not necessarily a bad thing. Emerging technology is giving students a path to greater opportunity by teaching marketable skills like coding, and stressing innovation and creativity—assets that are necessary in a technologically focused workforce.
In the past, students were taught to sit quietly and listen while their teacher lectured. Today, students are encouraged to bring in outside ideas and influences; to question ‘the expected’; and to respond with creative inquiry. This model, which fosters collaboration, intuition and innovation, leans towards project based and blended learning.
Blended learning frees students from the typical classroom setting. As such, physical classroom setups have been updated to incorporate computers, makerspaces and SmartBoards. Classroom furniture is being shifted for a more flexible, hands-on and stimulating learning environment. Setups such as these mimic the creative office spaces that students can now experience in the workforce.
This inundation of changes is not only helpful for students, but also provides teachers with new ways to connect with their students. Educators are starting to recognize that not all students learn in the same ways. Technology allows teachers the ability to personalize a student’s learning to ensure that they are getting the most of each lesson. Online sites like Google Classroom provide “differential learning,” allowing students to receive assignments tailored to their learning needs.
One of the biggest trends in education right now is the emergence of coding as a newly identified literacy. Studies have shown that programming skills and coding literacy fosters an individual’s creativity, problem solving abilities and critical thinking skills. With the increasing prevalence of computer science jobs, these skills are slowly moving from being a marketable trait to a necessary, or even expected, one.
According to the 2016 K-12 NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, daily classroom use of tools like virtual classrooms, 3D printing, robotics and virtual reality will soon be a reality for millions of students across the world. Similarly, the use of Makerspaces has also become more common in classrooms across the nation. This technology is designed to give students the chance to “create their own knowledge,” by tinkering, playing with and constructing new objects. This interaction is meant to simulate real world challenges, and foster technological literacy by straying away from the typical learn and repeat style of teaching.
While many educators understand the benefit of technology in the classroom, problems arise in the implementation. This is due to the challenges our society faces in terms of “digital equality”. Even today, many schools and student’s homes are not connected to the internet or only have access to antiquated devices.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that, of the 29 million homes in the United States with school aged children, 5 million do not have access to high-speed internet service. The question then arises: Is this new style of learning hindering students more than helping if such learning cannot be reinforced at home? A dilemma that some have dubbed the “Homework Gap.” While programs like President Obama’s ConnectALL initiative aim to fill in this gap, educators will continually need to evaluate student’s home situations when implementing technology based learning solutions.
Problems aside, technology has and will continue to transform the traditional learning model we once knew for the better. For more information on technological tools for the classroom or to find a range of innovative products to use with your students, visit SchoolMart today.