The education system has long been overdue for an update. Many systems in place, especially in public schools, are years behind in efficiency and can be slow to assimilate new technologies that can help in organization, learning, and engagement. Since my time as an elementary school student, however, I have witnessed first-hand as technology slowly began to find its way into the education landscape. In the last few years, technology has asserted itself as an essential component for the success of education in the future. Leaders in the education space are constantly looking for new ways to utilize the efficient and interactive nature of technology to create a more productive environment for both the students and the teachers. In this paper, I will unpack what it means to effectively integrate technology and why it is important to do so. In addition, I will present direct evidence supporting gains in performance as a result of increased technology use in the classroom as well as survey data that discusses sentiment surrounding its implementation. And finally, we will look at modern day examples of varying methods that show how the technological era is being ushered into the classroom. The presence of technology can be felt now more than ever, and it is the way of the future. There is a great amount of value in traditional methods of teaching and learning, and technology should not be used in place of teacher instruction. It is most effective when used to supplement the learning experience of the student so as not to sacrifice the important capability of person to person interaction.
The International Society for Technology in Education has a set of standards to help guide educators as they reorganize and transform the learning environment. “Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally” (ISTE 2019). In simpler terms, integrated technology should feel second nature. A student should have access to a range of tools that assist in gaining a more comprehensive and insightful understanding of the subject at hand. The first important piece of this process is to provide the necessary framework for educators to redefine the way in which we teach and learn to reflect the introduction of technology. The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) and Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) models are commonly used guides that structure new technology use in education. Both give the teachers resources and direction in order to achieve the ultimate goal of improving learning. Technology can be used in countless ways and at varying levels as an effective addition to the classroom. Blended instruction offers face-to-face teaching in addition to computer based learning; this is a good example of an effective balance of using technology as a supplement to traditional learning. Game based learning is a prominent tool being used for younger students as a way to keep them engaged with the content and excited about learning. There are also interactive instructional tools that are created specifically for educational purposes such as the Smartboard. It can replace the standard white board and give the teacher the ability to use more intuitive visual demonstrations in order to make the material easier to understand. These are just a few examples of different types of technology integration at different levels. Technology should not be a total replacement of current methods, and is most successful when used to complement teaching in any number of ways.
Technology is an omnipresent force that children today are exposed to from the moment they are born. It is in our homes, restaurants, hospitals, and every other place we spend time. It makes sense that they should be equally utilized throughout our education system; it has the ability to revolutionize the way students learn and engage new material. The Edutopia article gives an important distinction that “integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs…” Successful integration throughout the entire curriculum can lead to advancements in the learning process in addition to gaining an important familiarity with new technologies. One of the most significant changes that is recognized with increased technology use is enhanced student engagement. Technology is designed to be interactive and to grab the attention of the user. Find me a 10 year-old kid that would rather write out multiplication tables on a piece of paper than defeat aliens through solving math problems on Math Invaders using an iPad. I’ve certainly never met one. Technology brings an excitement surrounding the novelty of learning that standard methods cannot offer. There is also a growing amount of empirical data in support of the idea that technology use in education directly leads to improved performance for students. The Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) puts forward that when technology is integrated with careful planning, continual guidance from teachers, and in collaborative ways with other students, clear improvements to problem solving skills and applicable ways of thinking can be observed. A study conducted by Barbara Means in 2010 explores the direct impact of implementing technology into the subjects of reading and mathematics. The results show that some students outperformed their counterparts without technology, while others remained at the same level. However, Means explains that the variation in results can be explained by specific differences in the way the schools integrated the technology; when continuous teacher collaboration was present, overall performance improved. This clearly demonstrates that technology can be a powerful tool, but only if implemented in a comprehensive and effective way (i.e. the frameworks mentioned above). There are many quantitative and qualitative reasons as to why education technology is an important facet for the future of learning.
In addition to enhanced performance as a result of increased technology use in the classroom, another argument is that it makes learning more enjoyable. This may be a difficult concept to measure, but studies are appearing that attempt to capture this idea and turn it into real statistics. Judy Abbott and Saundra Faris wanted to understand whether or not students actually enjoyed using the new technology or if they preferred more traditional methods. They conducted a survey as to the attitudes toward computers before and after undergoing a course that had consistent computer use and integrated technology throughout. The data shows that there is a meaningful change in attitude between the beginning and end of the course after using the technology. As a result of significant class assignments ascertaining to technology, supportive collaboration from the teacher, and a number of different uses, attitudes toward computer use in the classroom improved greatly. Although this study was performed many years ago, and the type of technology integration we would see today may be different, this article still gives relevant evidence to the fact that students enjoy learning through technology and feel positively about its presence in the classroom (Abbott and Faris 2000). Similar to the study done by Abbott and Faris, this article discusses sentiment and perceptions of technology in the classroom. However, Georgina and Hosford wanted to capture the attitudes that teachers hold in respect to its use as opposed to students. This is an important thing to note that many researchers do not consider. Even if test scores are better, if the technology makes the job of the teacher more difficult, it may not be a realistic solution. The results of this study indicate that overall teachers do appreciate having technology available and that more familiarity with technology leads to easier integration into the classroom (Georgina and Hosford 2009). These studies offer another perspective onto the overall benefits of its use. Performance is better, capabilities are higher, and both the teacher and the student enjoy having technology in the classroom.
A necessary component of successful integration is the motivation to accept and promote change. Technology is constantly being innovated and its implementation is “an ongoing process and demands continual learning” (Edutopia 2007). Julie Davis’ 2019 article in Edutopia examines the specific use of voice devices in the classroom. She looks at how recent voice technologies, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, have be integrated into a classroom setting in order to boost engagement and overall student performance. It gives important stipulations to the potential use of this in a classroom. A teacher must not replace face-to-face teaching, but simply use it to supplement their own direction to students. She speaks specifically of the Echo Dot Kids Addition and its use of a feature called “FreeTime.” This feature acts as a filter and prevents any inappropriate use of the device and only allows interaction when the teacher initiates it. This is a great example of a way that technology has been innovated to be an integrated tool specifically used for learning. Another very prominent technological development that will continue to have an impact on the education system is virtual reality. Virtual reality has been at the forefront of news and technological advancement for the last few years as it offers a unique range of uses. Many people jump straight to video games when VR comes to mind, but over the last few years, it has popped up in places like flight simulation and training for pilots, exposure therapy to help treat PTSD patients, and surgeons practicing complex procedures. VR technology is now being implemented into classrooms in order to advance learning objectives through its “ability to inspire and grab the attention of young minds” (Kennedy 2018). Students have the ability to take virtual reality field trips to historical locations or observe complicated scientific simulations among a suite of other capabilities. Guido Kovalskys, a prominent figure in the edtech space, claims “We see a direct correlation between VR usage and increases engagement by students… and added engagement boosts learning outcomes.” This accurately explains why technologies like virtual reality are an important asset for the future of education. Although the technology exists, the limitation comes with a lack of quality content. There is simply not enough useful resources for VR to be widespread. As more learning content is developed, VR could become a staple in the classroom. These are just a few examples of how technology has been used as a way to increase engagement and as a result, improve academic performance.
Technology should not be used to replace the “social experience” of learning. Content is obviously important, but learning to interact and build relationships is a vital part of complete education. Implementation of technology into the classroom clearly has many benefits. It is more enjoyable, there are greater capabilities, and it is overall more engaging. With these benefits comes improved performance. The question is not whether technology should be used in the classroom. The added value that comes with its use are evident. The real question is ‘how can we achieve the most effective manner of implementation?’. This occurs with a willingness to trust the process, consistent collaboration, and most of all, continuous flexibility and innovation. Only then will we see the true ability of technology to enhance learning.
Abbott, Judy A. and Saundra E. Faris. “Integrating Technology into Preservice Literacy Instructions: A survey of Elementary Education Students’ Attitudes toward Computers”. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, Volume 33, 2000 – Issue 2, February 24, 2014, Pages 149-161, Taylor & Francis Online, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08886504.2000.10782306
Davis, Julie D. “’Alexa, Do You Belong in the Classroom?”. George Lucas Educational Foundation, April 24, 2019, Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/article/alexa-do-you-belong-classroom
Georgina, David A., and Charles C. Hosford. “Higher Education Faculty Perceptions on Technology Integration and Training”. Teaching and Teaching Education, Volume 25 – Issue 5, July 2009, Pages 690-696, Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X0800187X
Kennedy, Emma. “Can Virtual Reality Revolutionize Education?” CNN Health+, November 1, 2008, CNN.com, https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/health/virtual-reality-education/index.html
Means, Barbara. “Technology and Education Change”. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Volume 42, 2010 – Issue 3, February 21, 2014, Pages 285-307, Taylor & Francis Online, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15391523.2010.10782552
No author. “What is Successful Technology Integration?”. George Lucas Educational Foundation, November 5, 2007, Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description