Once upon a time, there was a blackboard with chalk, a finger-wagging teacher and a row of forward-facing desks.
In many schools, the way classrooms look might not have changed much since the 19th century - but the technology that teachers and pupils use is a world away… and it’s helping students learn faster, and smarter.
While Kindles are outshining books, smartphones are a necessity, news comes from the web and social media has become the watchword of the 21st century, edtech is transforming lessons.
As teachers strive at every key stage to prepare pupils for the world of work, education is no longer simply about memorising facts and figures and extending vocabulary. It’s about learning to solve problems, honing alternative skillsets and setting up children for later life in a digital world.
First, PCs crept into classrooms. Then interactive whiteboards replaced blackboards. By 2014, according to education technology charity Tablets for Schools, 70% of all UK primary and secondary schools used tablets in lessons.
Now, there are around 900,000 tablets in schools - more than double the number in 2014 - and some are even trialling the US-based “flipped classroom” technique, where instructions are delivered online outside the classroom and lesson time is used as the place to do homework.
But it’s not just students that edtech is benefitting. Show My Homework is an app allowing teachers to quickly set and mark simple homework tasks on the go.
There are social media platforms specifically for teachers to share lesson plans, units and courses with the wider world; apps to track pupil attendance and text messaging services allowing schools to communicate clearly with parents.
With that said, here are seven reasons why today’s teachers and students need technology in their classrooms.
Almost every job requires the use of technology, from office work to construction and everything in between. Familiarising pupils with tablets and PCs at an early age - and not just to play games or watch CBeebies on - means they’ll be ready for this technologically dependent world of ours and know how to use technology to their advantage.
Bored children can lead to badly behaved children - and no one wants that in the classroom. Introducing technology into lessons, whether by asking youngsters to occasionally write blogs rather than essays, getting to grips with algorithms or researching facts on the internet, keeps pupils - particularly in large classes - interested and engaged. Learning to use technology makes pupils excited - and more eager to learn.
Researching and creating things together can bring a sense of cohesion to the classroom, encouraging teamwork and group learning.
The traditional teacher-pupil passive learning relationship is broken with the introduction of edtech. The onus is on the child to discover their own answers to questions - they’re not simply spoon-fed by the teacher. They learn how to think by themselves. And this means the information they learn is more likely to stay with them.
Old-school textbooks go out of date quicker than you can say Pythagoras - but with digital textbooks, students have access to the latest information which is constantly updated. It’s often presented in a more visual, vivid, pupil-friendly way. Plus, programmes can be considerably cheaper than books, easing pressure on already squeezed school budgets.
No longer is educational success defined by how much information you can cram into your head ahead of an exam. Learning to use technology in the classroom isn’t a memory test - it’s an aptitude test. And this is a vital skill for later life. It also allows children to learn at their own pace.
Dr Barbie Clarke, of the Family, Kids and Youth research group, led a study which found when pupils took home tablet computers, it increased the involvement of families in their learning. A separate study, by the National Literacy Trust, found touch-screen computers were particularly helpful in helping boys and poorer children to read because they were more engaging than printed books.
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