We live in an increasingly digital world. Computers, the Internet and mobile technology have been integrated into all aspects of our lives, from the workplace to healthcare to our social lives. Education is no exception. The digitalization of certain facets of higher education has been commonplace for some time; online education programs, campus e-mail, services like Blackboard and Moodle, and professor podcasts are integral and even required components in many college classrooms today.
Now, technology is finding a home in the K-12 classroom. In fact, Huffington Post predicted how new technology will come into play in the classroom by 2018. Let’s take a look at some of these emerging education technologies and how they could affect students, both for the better and worse.
Interactive whiteboards (like SMART Boards), tablets and smartphones are all finding a place in the K-12 classroom. According to Huffington Post, many surveys show that teachers and administrators are in full support of incorporating this type technology in the classroom and that most feel they do not currently have access to enough technological aides.
Many schools have launched one-on-one tablet programs for students; however, this is currently not an option for all districts. Cost is the greatest deterrent. The obvious cost of the tablet multiplied over the student body is substantial, but there are also additional costs associated with large-scale tablet rollouts, including network and increased bandwidth costs, IT support costs and costs to train teachers on the new technology.
The merits of technology, tablets especially, in the classroom are multitudinous. Tablets can functionally replace many classroom materials, including paper handouts, textbooks and planners. This saves the student from toting around cumbersome materials and streamlines organization. Students and teachers can access assignments anywhere, at any time. And, tablets enable students to explore and discover knowledge outside the walls of their school.
However, the potential for distraction with this type of mobile technology is large. Students are able to quickly circumvent any safeguards or restrictions administrators place on tablet devices to prevent unsanctioned use (social media, chat and inappropriate content). While some experts argue that this distraction outweighs the benefits, others insist that students will find a way to distract themselves no matter the environment and that the potential for distraction is not a strong enough argument to turn away from technology in the classroom.
One of the greatest boons technology brings to the classroom is the ability to access resources and persons outside of the immediate surrounding area. Virtual libraries allow students to access books, videos and other materials they may not otherwise have been able to utilize.
Technology in the classroom also provides access to collaborative learning experiences. Students who may be physically limited in their ability to interact with other students can do use with the help of text-to-speech programs or video conferencing. Gifted students can take accelerated or advanced classes not offered at their physical school through the help of technological advances, as well.
Students can gain insights into other cultures and countries, too. Through interactions online, students can see what it’s like to live in another country, talk with students from other cultures and peer into classrooms all around the world.
In the near future, virtual laboratories may allow students to conduct physical and chemical experiments online, which will alleviate the pressure to “get it right the first time” and potential prevent costly and dangerous miscalculations or missteps. For example, a student could be required to satisfactorily complete the virtual experience before conducting the real one.
3D Printing and Model Creation
Although 3D printing is still in its infancy, its potential in the classroom could be great. As Huffington Post reported, the STEM Academy has already partnered with Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company, to start integration of the technology in programming classes. Students could literally watch their ideas and concepts become reality before their eyes. Creating models and concepts for larger projects would be made much simpler through the use of 3D printers.
Applying 3D printing technology to the classroom could also help bolster student interest in math and science disciplines. America has struggled to keep students interested in math and science for the long haul. By integrating cutting edge technology in the classroom, teachers are better equipped to plant and nurture the love of STEM concepts in students.
And, who knows? Maybe teachers could even print a pencil for the students who forgot theirs! Provided, of course, that students are still using pencils in the digital classroom of tomorrow.