Why Your Classroom Technology Needs to Be Smarter Than Paper

Can your students make the same learning gains with paper as they can with your current classroom technology?

If the answer is yes, your digital setup is failing you.

In the last year I’ve learned just how many classrooms have accessed new technology without a plan for implementation. (Answer: too many.) These classrooms are using their shiny new devices, but instruction has been left unchanged.

When we use the same lesson plans as we always have — with electronic assignments dropped in — it’s unlikely that more will be accomplished than when those assignments were scribbled on the blackboard. What a waste.

I want to stop the madness by spreading a simple message: tech can do so much for classrooms as long as we let it be smarter than paper.

This means not adding technology for the sake of adding technology, but to achieve new learning gains.

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A big part of this is undergoing a digital assessment of your school/classroom to ensure you select a product that students and teachers want to use. I’m not talking about checking boxes or meeting complicated technical requirements because a piece of paper says you need to — I’m asking if you’ve found and implemented technology that allows classrooms to do something they otherwise couldn’t. Perhaps time management tools that measure how much work a student has each night or collaborative spaces where classes can engage in real-time and keep the conversation going.

Yeah. I’m basically saying that planning is everything here. But not just planning — planning for the right stuff. (Your students! Learning!)

Planning for technology in classrooms too often centers on how quickly a school can get devices or learning platforms set up for students. Timelines and funding structures are crafted, but not enough is put into professional development for the instructors who will use these tools. Too few ask how new platforms will enrich lesson plans and support knowledge gains; we’re more likely to see conversations about roll-out dates and new tech policies.

Timelines and funding structures and roll-out dates are fine on their own, but none of these address how to use classroom technology to one-up the whiteboard. I’m constantly floored by institutions that either don’t offer instructors creative ideas/training for using new technology or select learning platforms that act as glorified assignment machines. I don’t see how students are getting more out of these deals.

I know there are schools out there doing this right. But not enough. Maybe if we start by measuring the effectiveness of new digital systems against paper and pen, we’ll be able to make decisions that really do more for students.