Whether you are a student today reading this article or a parent thinking back on your days in school, you can probably think of a number of ways technology has impacted your learning. With the development of new technology accelerating at breakneck speeds, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the current status of technology, where it was ten years ago, and where it is in the next ten years.
When I was in grade 2, the extent of educational technology looked a little something like this:
It is hard to believe that today, technology completely surrounds students in the classroom, involved in every step of the educational journey. Today, it isn't entirely uncommon to see something more like this:
In this article, we will discuss how classrooms have changed to incorporate technology through the decades, some examples of educational technology, and why schools should find ways to include technology in the classroom.
A Brief History Of Educational Technology
While some could argue that educational technology traces all the way back to cave paintings, that is a few millennia out of date. Modern educational technology started with the Vocational Education Act in 1963, which resulted in some students learning early programming languages like BASIC and Logo on PCs of the time. By the mid-1980s, Apple had found its way into the classroom. Educational technology was a powerful tool to drill math problems, spelling, language learning, and pattern matching. Shortly thereafter, the introduction of the world wide web. The internet allowed for keeping up with global current events, global communication, and online research.
What Are Some Examples of Educational Technology?
SMART boards are interactive whiteboards that combine the capabilities of a projector and a whiteboard, allowing for a pseudo touchscreen experience through the use of their markers. Using SMART boards, Teachers can give a lesson without standing in the way of the whiteboard, save copies of notes to send out to students or restore for future use, and even play videos.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Imagine you are a student learning about ancient Rome and how gladiators fought gloriously in the great Coliseum. Before virtual reality, the closest you could get would be hopping on a plane and physically standing there, which for good reason is not a viable solution. With VR, teachers can send their students on virtual field trips simulating the experience of being in the Coliseum, the Great Wall of China, or the Sistine Chapel all in the same week without the airfare and travel planning.
Kahoot.com is a website where teachers can select from a wide variety of teacher-created or ready-made multiple-choice quizzes that students participate in from their desks using their personal devices. The best thing about Kahoot is that it is gamified, and students compete against each other, earning points for correct answers, and getting more points for answering quickly. Kahoot can make a regularly boring activity an exciting and social experience.
Scratch is a computer application where users can use logic blocks to move sprites across a screen based on the algorithms they design. Scratch is a free program, which can be used not only to teach programming concepts but even to make games. The prototype for the wildly popular game geometry dash was originally created using Scratch and generated over 21 million dollars of revenue after just 5 years after its release. Not bad for an educational tool designed for students aged 8 to 16 years old. Scratch was my first introduction to programmatic logic, sparking my passion for programming and ultimately leading to a career in computer science.
What list of educational technology would be complete without including Duolingo? If you haven’t heard of Duolingo, which rock have you been living under? Duolingo is a language learning platform available on a wide variety of devices such as iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows where users can learn over 40 different languages including fictional languages High Valyrian from Game of Thrones and Klingon from Star Trek. This is achieved through brief lessons that take about 2 minutes to complete.At the time of writing this Article, Duolingo is also creating an application to teach mathematics, now available on the App Store for iOS.
How Does Educational Technology Facilitate Learning?
Educational technology facilitates learning in three major ways:
Educational Technology makes learning interactive and engaging, gripping the attention of learners for longer periods of time, and maximizing the amount of effective learning that can be achieved in a single lesson.
Educational technology makes learning in bite-sized chunks possible, like in the case of Duolingo. When you can scrape together a few minutes to reinforce your learning in a particular field, the amount of ineffective downtime in the day is reduced, allowing you to stuff even more learning into each and every day.
Educational technology provides teachers with an array of tools they can use to deliver lessons and distribute study materials more effectively, ensuring that students have all the resources they may need readily at their disposal.
Should More Classrooms implement Educational Technology?
While it is easy to look at all the options available, and think to yourself “Wow, this would make my job so much easier” or “If we could have this in our classrooms, going to class would be something I get excited for”, Some educational technology may come with a steep price tag attached to it. This is particularly true for SMART boards, each unit costing between $2500 and $7500, or VR headsets, which can cost up to $800 for a high-end unit. Fortunately, the software options that are available often have a free version or are fully available to instructors and students alike entirely for free. Like with all technology, the amount of time it takes to adopt a technology is non-negligible, sometimes taking a whole year to fully incorporate certain technologies into an education curriculum. Introducing Technology to the classroom should be approached with a mindset of experimentalism, introducing tools once at a time, and evaluating how it impacts both the teaching and learning experiences.
Educational technology has come a long way since its inception in the early 60s. The educational arsenal at the disposal of teachers is vast and grows even larger each day. Tapping into what EdTech can do for the classroom is a step that should be considered in every classroom, but should be done gradually.