Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom: A Guide for Educators

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Technology has done more to change school curriculum and practices than nearly anything else—and in such a short amount of time! While it can be hard to keep up with every trend in educational technology, the mindset you have when it comes to classroom tech matters just as much as which ones you use. By learning to view it as a means of enhancing your lessons and resources, you can provide your students with tools and opportunities they may not otherwise access.

So, why and how should you use technology in your classroom? Read on to discover the impact of technology in education and how to get the most from its unique benefits.

What Is the Proper Role of Technology in the Classroom?

If you struggle to use technology in your classroom, you’re not alone. Many educators aren’t motivated to use digital resources in class, often because they’re unsure how to use them effectively or are unaware of the benefits.[1] In such cases, it’s easy to question not only how to make technology useful, but also whether technology should be used in schools at all.

Even with the latest and best digital technology, classrooms will not benefit unless the students and faculty understand how to use it.[15] In fact, educational technology should never be viewed as a perfect resource to teach your students everything they need to know to succeed. Instead, view it as a tool that can inform and supplement lessons, and even then, only if teachers and administrators are well trained in its use.

While technology can be an excellent resource in a classroom, it’s important to set limitations. Technology—no matter how good—should never be a substitute for face-to-face interaction with a teacher or classmates.[4] Technology is best used to augment non-digital lessons rather than the other way around. The goal when using technology should be to enhance your teaching rather than replace it.[6]

Benefits of Using Tech and Digital Media in Education

With the help of technology, you can introduce your classroom to opportunities and resources they may not otherwise be able to access.[5] In fact, this is one of the greatest ways technology has changed education. You may not be able to take your students to one of NASA’s space centers to witness a rocket launch, for example, but you can teach them all about rockets using resources on NASA’s website. Video clips, educational games, and virtual simulations are just a few examples of technology resources you can use to engage and educate in the classroom.

Plus, the vast majority of today’s careers require at least some digital skills (which include anything from complex skills like coding to simpler ones like composing and sending emails). Using tech in class can prepare students to successfully enter the workforce after graduation.[4] Even though the technology is likely to change from their early school years to the time they start their first career, teaching digital literacy in elementary school is a great way to get students started.

Why else is understanding how to use technology in the classroom important? Using technology alongside non-digital lessons can have many academic and behavioral benefits for your students, including:[2,7,11,12]

  • Longer attention span
  • Increased intrinsic motivation to learn
  • Higher classroom participation and student engagement
  • Greater academic achievement
  • Stronger digital literacy

And finally, the benefits of classroom technology can expand far beyond the classroom and right into your students’ homes.[4] Rather than handing out paper worksheets, you can send your students online lessons or activities to complete at their own convenience. This practice provides better flexibility, plus the opportunity for you to provide audio or video clips alongside homework assignments. Additionally, if you have low-income students in your classroom, you may be able to supplement the resources available to their families by providing take-home technology.

How to Get the Most from Technology in Schools

One of the major concerns parents and educators have with classroom technology is how to limit excessive screen time. The American Association of Pediatrics suggests the following screen time recommendations by age. Keep these guidelines in mind when you teach lessons that involve screen time in your classroom:[17]

  • 2–5 years old: No more than one hour of high-quality digital activities or programming
  • 6 or older: Consistent limits to prevent screen time getting in the way of sleep, physical activity, or other healthy behaviors

It’s important to keep in mind that older students may have differing needs in comparison to the youngest students, where one hour of high-quality digital activities is always the limit. Regardless of your students’ ages, set consistent limits to keep technology as effective as possible and limit distractions.

Whenever possible, prioritize active digital screen time over passive.[16] Active screen time, like playing an educational game or learning a new digital skill, engages a student’s mind or body in a way that involves more than observation. Passive screen time—think watching a video or listening to an online lecture—involves limited interaction or engagement with the technology. Active digital activities are more likely to help your students experience new concepts, and they encourage your class to work together during the lesson.

Although teachers at low-income and rural schools are less likely to use technology, any tech you have available can greatly add to the opportunities you provide your students.[13, 18] Technology can remove some of the physical or financial barriers to educational resources and experiences.[17] If you’re unable to go on a field trip, for example, you can access plenty of virtual field trips at no cost.[16] Use the technology you do have to supplement your lessons and provide students with information you may not otherwise be able to access.

And finally, use school technology to teach your students digital citizenship.[14] Broadly defined, digital citizenship is the safe, ethical, informed, and responsible use of technology.[16] It encompasses skills like internet safety, setting healthy screen time habits, and communicating with others online. Lessons that involve digital citizenship can help a student use technology responsibly well beyond their elementary school years.

6 Quick Tips for Using Technology in the Classroom

The benefits of technology in education can revolutionize your classroom, but only when used intentionally. All it takes is a little time and personal training to help you understand the ins and outs of useful classroom tech.

Keep these six strategies and ideas in mind to help you get the most out of your classroom technology:

  • Always use technology or learning programs yourself before trying it with your students so you can troubleshoot any issues in advance.[9]
  • Most of today’s students are digital natives and have grown up around technology for their entire life. Listen to what your students know about technology and ask them for tip. They may just teach you something new![8]
  • Use digital resources (like apps, texts, or social media groups) to keep parents informed about class activities and upcoming assignments.[5]
  • Prioritize active digital activities, like online learning games or interactive lessons, over passive activities (like watching a video).
  • If you’re an administrator, schedule a faculty training session on how to use your school’s technology and answer any questions.[10]
  • Focus your technology-based lessons on teaching your students digital citizenship, or skills that will help them thoughtfully and effectively navigate digital media.[14]

Sources:

  1. Groff, J., and Mouza, C. A Framework for Addressing Challenges to Classroom Technology Use. AACE Journal, January 2008, 16(1), pp. 21-46.
  2. Levy, L.A. 7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy is Important for Teachers. Retrieved from usc.edu: https://www.rossieronline.usc.edu/blog/teacher-digital-literacy/.
  3. Van Dusen, L.M., and Worthen, B.R. Can Integrated Instructional Technology Transform the Classroom? Educational Leadership, October 1995, 53(2), pp. 28-33.
  4. Rosenberg, J. Technology in the classroom: Friend or Foe? Retrieved from huffpost.com: hhttps://www.huffpost.com/entry/technology-in-the-classro_2_b_2018558..
  5. Venezky, R.L. Technology in the classroom: steps toward a new vision. Education, Communication & Information, 2004, 4(1), pp. 3-21.
  6. Buckenmeyer, J.A. Beyond Computers In The Classroom: Factors Related To Technology Adoption To Enhance Teaching And Learning. Contemporary Issues in Education Research. April 2010, 3(4), pp. 27-36.
  7. Bester, G., and Brand, L. The effect of technology on learner attention and achievement in the classroom. South African Journal of Education, 2013, 33(2), pp. 1-15.
  8. Reissman, H. 7 smart ways to use technology in classrooms. Retrieved from ted.com: https://ideas.ted.com/7-smart-ways-to-use-technology-in-classrooms/.
  9. Edutopia Staff. How to Integrate Technology. Retrieved from edutopia.org: https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-implementation.
    Winters-Robinson, E. How Tech Can Engage Students, Simplify the School Day and Save Time for Teachers. Retrieved from edsurge.com: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-10-15-how-tech-can-engage-students-simplify-the-school-day-and-save-time-for-teachers.
  10. Couse, L.J., and Chen, D.W. A Tablet Computer for Young Children? Exploring its Viability for Early Childhood Education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 2010, 43(1), pp. 75-96.
  11. Filer, D. Everyone’s Answering: Using Technology to Increase Classroom Participation. Nursing Education Perspectives, 2010, 31(4), pp. 247-250.
  12. Friedman, S. How Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom. Retrieved from thejournal.com: https://thejournal.com/articles/2019/04/15/how-teachers-use-technology-in-the-classroom.aspx.
  13. Mace, N. 8 Strategies to Manage the 21st Century Classroom. Retrieved from education.cu-portland.edu: https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/using-classroom-technology/.
  14. Keswani, B., Patni, P., and Banerjee, D. Role Of Technology In Education: A 21st Century Approach. Journal of Commerce and Instructional Technology, 2008, 8, pp.54-59.
  15. The Office of Educational Technology. Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. Retrieved from tech.ed.gov: tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf.
  16. Courville, K. Technology and its use in Education: Present Roles and Future Prospects. 2011 Recovery School District Technology Summit, 2011, pp. 1-19.
  17. Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., Groff, J., and Haas, J. Using the technology of today, in the classroom today: the instructional power of digital games, social networking, simulations, and how teachers can leverage them. The Education Arcade, 2009, pp. 1-20.
  18. American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. Retrieved from aap.org: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx.

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