The future of edutech – a view from the States

  • The future of edutech – a view from the States

D.Goffi writes: There is a buzz of electrical fervour in the air the minute students’ fingertips touch the shiny, new iPad. Immediately, without guidance from me, their teacher, students are downloading apps, taking photos, and suggesting curricular games to play. Welcome to a 2015 classroom: students are in the driver’s seat and teachers are the navigators…

One-to-one technology was introduced in the Illinois, USA, school district in which I taught, at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Excited, yet terrified of how this would change my teaching, I eagerly began planning English lessons using this innovative toy. My goal: to flip my classroom to increase time-on-task and differentiate lessons. I implemented the use of Schoology, a 21st century classroom management app. With this tool, students used discussion boards to begin or continue Socratic seminars from class, had instantaneous feedback from assessments I generated, created summative projects through Show Me and Google Drive to upload on the app and share with peers, and posed questions to their peers during inquiry-based lessons. While students controlled their learning, I supervised their work, monitoring comments and evaluating assessments.

Two clear themes emerged while using this lesson-changing system: student engagement increased, as well as my concern for online safety. The iPad was tailored to student interest—they were using a familiar tool and enjoyed an app that contained similar features to Facebook. Students understood real-world application, and thus, were engaged in discussions and projects. On the other hand, students were unfamiliar with netiquette and creating a positive, digital footprint. Students needed to be taught how to appropriately, safely, and thoughtfully converse online. They may have been able to quickly understand how to use the apps, at times even teaching me, but they desperately needed lessons regarding online decorum and safety.

This idea of a bring-your-own-device program (BYOD) or simply an increase of technology within each classroom is certainly growing and improving within the United States. Likewise, in the UK, one-to-one technology is on the rise. Digital learning services are emerging to provide curriculum-aligned, relevant, and current content for secondary teachers to plan high-quality lessons and share their brilliant ideas with colleagues; further, these new services and online management systems also allow teachers to create online assessments and activities to encourage further application in and out of the classroom.

However, UK schools and teachers, much like US educators, seem a bit hesitant about giving up their control. The apprehension about how to use technology and how much power to relinquish is palpable. And rightfully so, because I have observed inappropriate and concerning behaviour that students can display using devices such as iPads.

Nevertheless, UK schools seem to have a handle on e-safety. There are new programs designed to teach educators how to approach technology in the classroom, thus easing their fears of integrating BYOD and other apps into their curriculum. Similarly, in the US, educational companies are launching digital safety programs. Educators are now realizing that in a digital age, where information spreads at a rapid pace, students need to know how to securely navigate the Internet.

Undoubtedly, both countries have significant progress to make with its technology use. Teachers are encouraged to become facilitators, coaching students to success, rather than lecturing about it. And without a doubt, technology is designed to help teachers assist students in becoming independent, life-long, 21st century learners. Educators all over the world need to embrace the available technology to enhance teaching and learning, while also having a clear strategy to handle the advantages and disadvantages.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s personal views and opinions based on her own professional experience. They, in no way represent, the views of any other person or organization. Ms. Goffi holds a Masters of Education from the University of Dayton, an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Dayton and has held teaching positions at different levels in the United States in Ohio and Illinois. Ms. Goffi currently does supply work in the United Kingdom, will be teaching part time in the 2015-16 school year, and writes independently on educational topics affecting both the United States and United Kingdom.

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