It's easy to see that technology is changing the way we interact with content. Students have more information at their fingertips than ever before.
This change in the way we interact with the information has a powerful effect on student learning.
Staff and Students Adapting to Technology
Technology that enables rapid access to information is still a relatively new phenomenon. As a result, today's education standards lie somewhere between more traditional teaching styles and the technology-enabled future of learning.
In this middle ground, where technology is pervasive but not always available to every student, teaching staff and institutions need to build strategies that are forward-facing yet practical, taking advantage of learning tools while working pragmatically with limited budgets and resources.
In this post, we'll highlight some of the ways that technology augments student learning and ways that institutions can make practical investments to help make smart learning technology available for all.
1. iPads and Tablets Make Learning Resources More Accessible
Most children growing up in the United States today are comfortable using smart devices and tablets. This exposure to intuitive touchscreen interfaces makes children experts in using devices deftly. A recent study suggests that such children at the age of six are more skilled at handling such devices than the average 45-year-old.
This stems from the fact that iPads and tablets are designed to be intuitive. Indeed, many children are able to interact with simple applications on a smart device before they are able talk. The intuition built in to the user experience of smart devices makes learning resources much more accessible for students of all ages.
This ease-of-access has enabled a number of novel teaching methods. The "flipped classroom" learning model, just one of many examples, has students learn at home and complete challenging "homework" assignments in the classroom. By watching educational videos and completing engaging, interactive lessons on iPads and smart devices, students in the flipped classroom model are able to absorb content in a way that is more tailored to individual learning styles. Working on assignments in the classroom makes teachers available to help students grasp difficult concepts and involves teachers more directly in the student work process.
There are a number of other apps and teaching methods that are helping teachers get the most out of iPads to augment student learning.
2. iPads Improve Performance in Institutions of Higher Learning
A study of exam performance in medical school students showed a 23% boost in performance at institutions equipped with iPads compared to more traditionally-equipped schools.
This is just one of a number of intense higher learning careers, but it is an example of how access to iPads in an educational setting improve performance when pressure is high and performance is key.
The use of smart devices in higher education may look different than it does in primary school. University students are expected to have access to the resources to perform necessary research for topics through use of public facilities, like libraries and university database interfaces. iPads and tablets instead play a role in assisting students in research projects and laboratory lessons, where collaboration and laborious tasks such as data collection can be made more efficient with access to tablet devices.
3. Chromebooks Provide Affordable Access to Technology
While there are clear benefits to the use of technology in improving student learning, societal effects may not be so clear-cut. This is because access to technology may widen the gap in quality of education between different socioeconomic groups.
For example, wealthier students may come away from their education with stronger skills due to their access to technology. Students with a lower socioeconomic status may not have access to technology, so their skill set may look weaker compared to peers who've enjoyed the benefits of technology in learning.
This imbalance could exacerbate the tendency for low-income family students to go in to low-income careers and create a bigger divide between the poor and the wealthy. This effect is sometimes known as "widening the skills gap," where prospective employees who have had access to technology are better able to perform tasks expected of new employees, and so they have a better likelihood of securing employment.
The Google Chromebook is a solution to this glaring issue. Designed to provide minimal access to web-based learning resources and simple applications, the Chromebook is an affordable alternative to pricey products from Apple, Microsoft, and other major brands.
Expanding access to learning is the primary goal behind Google Giving for Education, which provides Chromebooks, among other tools, to underserved schools and communities.
Chromebooks are a great option for institutions with limited resources that would like to build an inventory of modern learning devices.
4. Personalized Learning
Learning is a unique to every individual. Just as we all have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, individuals tend to learn best in a specific way.
Though still an active area of research, learning can be broadly broken down into seven learning types:
- Visual Learning
- Aural Learning
- Verbal Learning
- Physical Learning
- Logical Learning
- Social Learning
- Solitary Learning
Every student is able to learn with any of these seven learning types. A student typically excels with one or more learning types and struggles with others.
Crafting a lesson plan that caters to the strong learning types of every student in a classroom with twenty or more students is difficult to do. Traditionally, teachers balance their lessons with multimodal learning to present materials directed towards a number of different learning styles. While this can work quite well, it tends to lengthen lessons and demands extra work from teachers.
A wonderful feature of smart devices such as iPads, tablets, and Chromebooks is that they provide a means to deliver personalized learning content to individual students that is tailored to their best learning styles.
Personalized learning is a two-way process; progress-aware learning applications are able to gather data about individual students' learning behavior to detect more successful teaching approaches. By providing tailored lessons, smart applications are able to improve learning performance over time by optimizing personalized lessons for the student.
There are a number of reasons to consider learning styles in building an education plan, including keeping students motivated and increasing learning performance.
5. Interactive Whiteboards Improve Teacher Productivity
With the advent of interactive whiteboards, some teachers are able to leave behind a number of clunky, older technologies.
Interactive whiteboard technology replaces a number of traditional teaching devices, including the classic projector and whiteboard. Once a teacher learns how to work effectively with an interactive whiteboard, no time need be lost on looking for a green-colored dry-erase marker that still has ink, trying to squeeze extra information onto a crowded whiteboard, spending precious minutes drawing or writing on the board, or searching for missing transparent projector slides.
A well-used interactive whiteboard allows teachers to prepare whiteboard notes prior to a lesson, providing the benefits of a well-organized projector presentation. The technology also enables teachers and students to interact with visualizations and information displayed on the board in real-time.
This enables a number of learning outcomes, but importantly it also allows teachers to reduce their teaching media into a single channel. This brings gains in productivity and reduces workloads for teachers.
6. Interaction Keeps Students Interested
Interactive whiteboards, iPads, tablets, Chromebooks, and other smart learning devices all bring a novel element to the classroom: interactive learning materials.
Traditional textbooks aren't always very interesting, and some students struggle to focus on such static media.
Smart devices constantly interact with the students, and play a pivotal role in the practice of interactive learning.
In the research paper The Effect of Technology on Learner Attention and Achievement in the Classroom, researchers were able to draw a significant connection to using technology to present materials and improved attention and learner achievement in all three studied academic subjects.
The ability to interact with learning content is key to keeping certain students interested in the subject at hand. Learning and teaching interactions help teachers define certain critical aspects of a lesson topic. These aspects answer questions like, how should learning happen? What outcomes do we hope to achieve through learning the topic? How can we define success in learning this topic?
By building lessons and materials interactively using smart devices, teachers are better able to perform interactive learning.
7. Online Learning Platforms Provide Real-Time Feedback
Online courses are well-known, but online learning isn't just for remote learners. Online learning platforms can play an important role in modern, technology-equipped classrooms as well.
These platforms can provide a space for tracking learning content and student assignments in real-time. With a click, a teacher can see which students have completed a given assignment at any time. Certain types of assignments, such as math problems, can be evaluated in real-time. Others, such as essays or written responses, can be automatically screened for plagiarism with an online learning platform.
This instant feedback gives teachers important metrics for evaluating class performance as a whole. It also provides a way for teachers to track the development and learning progress of individual students.
The end result of this real-time feedback is more efficient class administration by teachers.
8. Online Platforms Promote Collaboration
Another benefit of online learning platforms that should not be underestimated is the improved ability for students to collaborate.
The traditional way to foster collaboration between students is through group assignments. By putting a group of students together, they are able to focus on team-oriented skills. This also gets students involved in teaching each other, which is both a great learning tool and an important life skill.
With the advent of online learning platforms, group work is more accessible than ever before.
Simple complications, such as groups finding ways to meet outside of class, are mitigated by online learning platforms and the collaboration tools they provide. Simple chats, document sharing, screen sharing, and "face-time" type calls can help students interact remotely in ways that were previously impossible.
This collaboration extends beyond group assignments.
Students working on online platforms can also be encouraged to take advantage of built-in communication channels to reach out to fellow students for guidance and study advice. With transparency, it's easy for a teacher or administrator to detect unfair practices such as cheating or copying homework assignments, and students are free to collaborate in productive ways.
These collaborations are a modern form of study groups or homework groups that students sometimes form in-person. Again, when meeting up with other classmates is difficult or impossible, online learning platforms enable healthy collaboration that benefit all students.
iPads, tablets, and Chromebooks also enable students to reach out to their help resources more easily and receive feedback when they need it.
Teachers, tutors, and classmates are all examples of these resources. The ability to send an email or a direct message on an online learning platform can cut a lot of time out of the process of seeking help when a student is up against a difficult problem or concept.
9. Technology Provides Long-Term Communication Records
In addition to the real-time communication benefits of using an online learning platform, working with these communication channels offers the additional benefit of holding long-term records of previous communications.
Without taking notes during a tutoring session, for example, a student may later forget a piece of knowledge or advice that a tutor gave.
In contrast, if a student reaches out to a tutor via an online learning platform or another media channel, the student can reference the tutor's response in future instances where he needs to recall the same information.
This digital paper trail is useful in a number of other contexts. It allows students to review their own assignments and sent messages when needed.
10. Use of Smart Devices Builds Real-World Job Skills
Well-applied smart devices for learning creates an environment where students are tasked with completing assignments with the aid of such devices. This turns out to be excellent practice for the types of tasks that are expected of employees in many modern jobs.
While classic classroom tasks such as hand-drawing and hand-writing still have their place, most jobs expect employees to complete tasks using computers, typing, and taking advantage of computational functions available on devices.
Students who have performed similar tasks during their education will enjoy a smoother transition into completing tasks at work. This is related to the notion that technology in the classroom will be a critical step in closing the job skills gap.
Technology Reduces Paper Waste
Though not specifically tied to improved learning, the use of smart technologies to aid in learning can significantly reduce the impact of education on the environment.
Traditional learning media include paper textbooks, paper workbooks for completing assignments, and loose-leaf papers for completing additional work and taking notes.
Proper use of smart devices can significantly reduce the paper used in all of these areas. In a world where resources are becoming more scarce, we all have a responsibility to conserve when we can.
Manage and Track Your Learning Devices
An investment in smart devices like iPads, Chromebooks, tablets, and Smartboards is an investment in the future of your students. It's important to manage and track these valuable assets to ensure optimal utilization; contact us to learn about our asset tracking solution for your devices!
The learning benefits of applying technologies such as interactive whiteboards, iPads, tablets, and Chromebooks can be huge. It's important to take the time to consider your learning outcome goals and the role that technology can play in achieving those.
The Technology-Enabled Future of Education
We still live between the pre-information age style of education and a future where the benefits of learning technology will be built in to public education standards.
In this in-between state, schools and institutions of learning need to be savvy and work within budgets to offer competitive learning experiences that properly prepare students to succeed in the real world. This means taking advantage of the technological learning resources that are currently available.
Until we reach a balanced future where technology is available to all learners, educators need to be creative in offering accessible resources for all students. This is an exciting yet challenging time to be involved in education, and technology plays a key role in success.
The best thing to do is to build a strategy and plan around technology in education for your institution. This should be forward-facing yet pragmatic, preparing students and classrooms for the future while staying within the means available. Keeping content and learning media relevant is critical to staying competitive and seeing a smooth transition into the future of education.