In this generation of students who have grown up with computers, mobile devices and social media, technology in the classroom is a major focus. Teachers and administrators have become increasingly attentive to developing ways they can integrate technology to get students more engaged in what they are learning. But this begs the question of whether high-tech teaching is actually the most effective way to reach students.
Trends of Connected Classrooms
Educators are finding new ways to get kids engaged in classroom learning through the mediums they are most familiar with. For example, some teachers have their kids pull out their smart phones during class so they can interact with polls and quizzes on Twitter. Others encourage kids to plan study groups and other events using Facebook. Teachers turn to YouTube to find educational videos to show in class, and many have their students complete video projects and post their assignments on YouTube. The theory is that this helps students to truly engage with the material because the teachers are speaking their language.
In addition, many educators argue that because students are so used to technology and will be involved in it, an important part of literacy today is ensuring that kids are digitally literate. It is only by encouraging them to use technology for projects that they can learn about issues like digital copyright, effective online research, and navigating the Internet in a way that avoids harmful content. When students regularly communicate using their preferred mobile platform, it can be difficult to accept that they will be willing or able to adjust to a different method for class work.
Problems of Technology
Professor Michael Wesch, who has pioneered many methods of teaching with technology, also recognizes that these methods aren’t for everyone. Although he has implemented them successfully, they can also create chaos in the classroom and distract kids with the bells and whistles, which hides the underlying educational benefits. When kids are so busy using Twitter to interact with each other about a specific topic, they can miss the actual point. And when teachers try to change their styles specifically to incorporate technology, their focus can become scattered as well, leading to lessons without purpose.
Finding a Foundation
One of the solutions Wesch suggests is that teachers focus on developing a connection with students. This may be through meeting them on their level with social media and technology, but it also can be by developing lectures that engage the students in ideas through more traditional teaching methods. As students and teachers connect with one another, the material can get through by any of a variety of methods.
Technology can definitely help in the classroom, but it needs to have a clear purpose that the teacher understands. As the teacher presents lessons, with or without technology, the goal should be to get through to the students and instill in them a sense of wonder about the topics. That way, the students will be interested in learning more through whatever means the teacher provides.
Although high-tech teaching methods have proven to be effective in some circumstances, they are not the only way for teachers to connect with students. Teachers should make an effort to incorporate technology as they can, provided the lessons have a clear educational purpose underlying the bells and whistles. But more importantly, teachers should use whatever techniques are necessary to connect with students over the wonder of learning.