Approaching technology in schools
Technology is everywhere, intertwined with almost every part of our daily lives. It affects how we shop, socialise, connect, play and, most importantly, learn.
As we sail through the 21st century, technology is becoming more and more predominant in the way we access information. Tablets seem to be on their way toward replacing textbooks, and we can research just about anything that we want from wherever we are on our smartphones. Social media has become commonplace, and the way we use technology has completely transformed the way we live our lives. Therefore, with this great and increasing presence in our lives, it only makes sense to have ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in our classrooms too.
A study carried out by the IT Trade Association showed that the impact technology has on today’s schools has been quite significant. The widespread adoption of technology has completely changed how teachers teach and how students learn. Teachers are learning how to teach with emerging technologies such as tablets, smartboards and computers, while students are using advanced technology which is also influencing the way they learn. According to the study, students prefer technology because they believe that it makes learning more interesting and fun. Subjects that students deem challenging or boring can become more interesting with virtual lessons, through a video, interactive whiteboard activities or with the use of a tablet.
In addition to this shift, technology also occupies an important place within students’ lives. When they are not in school, just about everything that they do is connected in some way to technology. Therefore, by integrating and implementing technology based lessons into the classroom, teachers are changing the way they used to teach, and are providing students with the tools that will take them through the 21st century.
ICT is constantly changing. As an institution it needs to keep up with the times in order to best prepare students for the everchanging world that they live in. Many in the Ed-Tech field see new technologies as powerful tools to help schools meet the needs of ever more diverse student populations. The idea is that digital devices, software, and learning platforms offer what was once an unimaginable array of options for tailoring education to each individual student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, interests and motivations, personal preferences and optimal pace of learning. Through various eLearning resources, students have the benefit to research and study whenever and whatever they want. There are no fixed timetables, so people from different time zones can now do the same courses in the same academic institute. Students can also take their examinations whenever they want with the time provided to them.
In Malta, most of the private and public schools have already adopted computer labs with state of the art technology and, by end of 2017, public schools will be provided with tablet computers for year 4 students. Therefore, ICT in education is being explored to enhance its potential for technology and to redefine the terms of teaching and learning.
Looking at how this approach might best be served, here are a few noteworthy observations:
All teachers should be equipped with the knowledge, tools and enthusiasm to fully integrate quality learning activities into ICT. This would maximise the impact on a student’s classroom experience and education in general; ICT hardware and software are not just simply in the form of administrative tools or electronic proxies, but should be able to function more as an integrated part of the classroom and the lesson plan; Parents need also to be engaged by increasing communication and transparency through linking home and school effectively via web portals and other online tools, consequently aiding in motivating students and thus raising standards; ICT should be associated positively with children and seen as a positive tool to enhance learning.
Technology gives the younger generation the ability to learn in ways that their parents and grandparents never had. Today’s learners have immediate access to answers and research. Yet, that immediate access is also changing the way students think about work and how they feel emotionally. There is no right or wrong as to whether technology in the classroom is a good thing or not. Educational technology has its plusses and minuses. So it is essentially up to teachers, administrators, and college personnel to decide whether the good outweighs the bad, while also ensuring to educate students on how to maximise on the benefits of technology and to be safe and smart when using such tools.