Years ago, all a student needed in the classroom was a pencil and paper. But in our modern world, pencil and paper have been replaced by keyboards and computer monitors.
Many are wondering if that change is a good thing, though: can children learn better through technology? Does technology have a detrimental effect on education, or does it actually help both teachers and students? While research into this relatively new field is limited, ISF Waterloo International School, the first Google for Education school in Belgium, explores how technology impacts learning as well as the performance of both students and teachers.
ISF International School
ISF International School has served expatriate families and their young children in the Tervuren and Waterloo areas for over 40 years. An excellent school which provides an outstanding quality of education and care, they deliver internationally accredited programs which fulfill the requirements of the UK National Curriculum, in an exciting environment with small class sizes and creative teaching.
The pros of technology in the classroom
While it may seem that schools have only recently become digital, technology actually has been used for decades — and the benefits of technology in the classroom are only growing.
Increase student engagement
Using technology in the classroom has shown to increase student engagement, in which students show interest, attention, curiosity and positivity in regards to learning. Specifically, one of the biggest drivers in the increase of student engagement has been the implementation of 1:1 computing programmes, where each student uses a personal computer, laptop or tablet in the classroom. The Google for Education programme, for example, gives students access to Chromebooks and a range of Google products to explore — students at a Google School can use their Chromebooks to discover virtual museums or even the world with the Google Cultural Institute and Google Earth.
Students in certain European countries already show high engagement and positive feelings towards their schools, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), but access to technology during school can give them an extra boost. Students in one study showed marked enjoyment in using the technology, creating an environment in which they were more willing and ready to learn beyond the assignments.
Increase student success
Schools want to make sure their students succeed — and technology can be the way to do it. In one study following technology “immersion”, in which students were given a laptop and technical and pedagogical support, testing results rose in the language arts areas. A report from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education analysed over 70 studies to show that students at risk of failing or dropping out demonstrated increased graduation rates and university attendance when technology was integrated into the classroom.
Let teachers teach
Students aren’t the only ones to benefit from technology in the classroom. For teachers, standing in front of a group of children or teens and holding a lesson is, surprisingly to some, not the only facet of their jobs. They spent countless hours preparing lessons, correcting students’ work, speaking with individual students and arranging lesson materials. With technology, however, some of that responsibility is taken off their shoulders.
Instead of creating, printing out and copying lesson materials, teachers can use apps and platforms such as Google Classroom to receive and access assignments. Teachers can facilitate discussions and feedback, make announcements and monitor homework all from within the web-based platform, and they can access it anywhere, anytime and on any device. It’s all web-based, and it’s paperless — and better for the environment, too.
The cons of technology in the classroom
With every new method or technique in teaching, there are always some drawbacks. Traditionalists may look down upon technology as too distracting for students, and that might be true in cases where students are encouraged to use their own devices such as laptops and smartphones, with access to social media and text messaging. However, using the Google for Education domain, schools can filter and restrict according to their needs and ensure students are using the internet safely.
Some students may also be far more familiar with technology than others, creating an imbalance in the classroom that might not have otherwise existed. Whether for lack of money or interest in technology at home, students with limited experience may have to play catch-up simply to be able to learn. At many schools, new students and their parents are given tutorials to ensure they can use the Google apps in the first week of school. Collaboration between the new and more experienced students is also encouraged.
So far, the pros outweigh the cons of technology in the classroom. With students becoming more engaged and more successful through technology, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the “conventional” way to learn.