Making Tech Work for Kids and Teachers

By Jim Marshall
When the bell rings in the morning calling students to class, students in many schools have to power down, disconnect, unplug. Their time of being 21st Century digital natives is suspended while they attend to learning about math, science, language arts and history. Advances in consumer technology, such as touch surface technology, and the software and apps have turned these devices in 24-7 interactive engagement centers shaping how today’s students live, communicate and learn. Students are immersed in online networks and communities where they create, exchange and absorb information.
As schools introduce these modern consumer technologies into the classroom, too often the difficult question about how these solutions can improve teaching and learning goes unanswered. For students, using these devices for learning is, in many cases, intuitive. It’s the adults in the room who struggle with how the process of teaching and learning changes when interactive and multi-media tools are introduced in the classroom. So, why not invite students to help change the format and flow of the learning?
When given the opportunity, students adapt learning styles and latch onto activities that make learning fun. For example, instead of just reading a textbook and responding to a question, they might use web-based systems to share information, engage in dialogue with peers around the world, publish their own material and contribute to diverse perspectives. Study tools are no longer one-dimensional, but multi-dimensional and collaborative. In essence, learners are engaged in co-creating knowledge in their everyday lives. This is how learning advances. Yet, classrooms are moving very slowly to embrace this shift.
Our job as educators or education stakeholders is to determine how best to blend student’s natural curiosity with technology, digital resources and web-based resources and tools to advance teaching and learning. We have an opportunity to personalize learning for students and to bring the joy of learning back into the classroom, but we must work together to make technology work for kids.
As a technologist I am always interested in decoding how technology can support advances in our lives and I believe we are in an education revolution where learning is being personalized for all students. When laptop computers were introduced into the classroom they disrupted what was the natural process flow of the classroom. Despite best intentions by educators, philanthropists, technologists and education advocates 1:1 initiatives have not fundamentally advanced (altered) teaching and learning. And while interactive whiteboards improved interactivity in whole-class settings, education has remained relatively unchanged and lessons too often are directed to “teach to the middle.”
Great teachers can personalize lessons without support from technology. But, what happens when these same teachers have solutions to capture useable student feedback to personalizing lessons? Would they be able to focus more on the learning, rather the process of delivering it?
How students learn and teachers teach is evolving daily. At Promethean, we want to catapult learning forward by giving teachers solutions – hardware, software and content – designed to lift the teaching and learning productivity of the classroom.
A recent study by York University reveals how using digital content with integrated software and hardware delivery system enhances grammar instruction. Ninety-three percent (93%) of teachers said the questions for learning functionality of this software increases student engagement. This same study found that teachers who used technology in delivering their lessons could cover in 3 months what traditionally would take 4.
By weaving technology and the learning process together we will help drive education into the future while seeing higher returns on student achievement.
Jim Marshall is an education technology leader and innovator who has championed many transformational projects in K-12 education and is currently the CEO of Promethean. He has received public recognition for his work in education in Michigan, Maine, Florida and Georgia and is an active member of the Cobb County Education Foundation and Director for the Florida Council on Economic Education, an organization that teaches fundamental finance and business concepts to highschool students.

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