Imagine you’re a mechanic. You’ve built up your trade and honed your skills painstakingly over the years. Your hands are your dependable tools and you rely on them for all the important tasks. Suddenly, your boss comes and tells you that robots are going to be introduced to the workforce, and you are expected to work side-by-side.
What was once exclusively your domain has now been infiltrated by machines. It’s the same predicament facing teachers everywhere. Technology is slowly but surely creeping into the classroom setting and a healthy balance is necessary.
Australian schools were the first to highlight the need for balance when the number of computers exceeded the number of students. However, this did not improve student performance. Thus, gone are the days when educational institutions could simply invest in computers and expect advancements in learning.
Arguments have been forwarded questioning the advantages of technology in classrooms. Some studies have even listed more cons than benefits. Others have associated screen time to increased screen addiction, anxiety, blurred vision, ADHD, aggression, dizziness, and depression.
There is also the constant fear that in an effort to join the bandwagon, schools may risk the cognitive, communication skill, critical thinking, and interpersonal development of the kids. So, it is imperative that teachers utilize technology in balanced ways to build skills and enhance learning. The six tips below offer a blueprint of sorts:
1. Use Multiple Modes of Communication
Digital platforms have expanded the concept of students’ writing beyond just words. Now, the lessons can be combined with illustrations, screen layouts, hyperlinks, images, sounds and popups to create meaning in various ways.
Teachers should be encouraged to experiment with two or more modes, like spatial, audio, or visual. Given the endless opportunities available, making animations, digital games, ebooks, blogs, and videos are the modern ways of exhibiting literacy that encompass innovative combinations of these modes.
The curriculum in Australia has, in fact, made multimodal literacies an actual requirement for students. Over 200 learning outcomes are connected with this kind of literacy, starting from preparatory classes all the way till the 12th standard. Educators need to lend their support to the children when it comes to creating multimodal designs, even for simple as drawing a digital diagram. This is a great way to ensure the educational benefits in spite of the prevalence of technology.
We weren’t kidding when we used the example of the mechanic earlier. Close to half of the existing jobs are at risk of being disrupted by the rise of technology in the next two decades. All of the jobs tracking a fast rate of growth need multimodal designs and digital communication skills, like architecture or engineering.
2. Add Some Creativity to the Use of Technology
Teachers should always be on the lookout for opportunities that allow students to produce instead of consume. This encourages them to be creative and interactive individuals. Simply playing educational games isn’t enough; why don’t the children try their hands at making their own? Students should be discouraged from sitting and staring at the screen passively while the teacher casually breezes through the slides.
The lecture-style content found in educational software should be avoided at all costs as it forces children to think inside the box and submit rote responses. Go for platforms that boost the children’s confidence and allow them to think for themselves. Not only does this help the students learn better but it also makes it easier to memorize information.
Opt for technologies that boost critical thinking, problem solving, and interactive skills. For instance, instead of promoting the use of automated spell check and grammar corrections software, motivate primary grade students to follow traditional grammar and writing textbooks, and only rely on technology to improve their work. Educational games that foster exploration or websites that encourage the user to express creativity or solve problems are good examples.
3. Focus on Collaboration
Students should get numerous chances to work together in learning and using digital media. Collaborative digital tasks are a great way to engage students in advanced thinking skills and explore comprehensive content with classmates. This includes software and devices that enable multi-user learning and help students interact with one another. Interactive discussion boards are a great idea since they allow the students to benefit together in a digital learning environment.
Teachers should try incorporating distributed expertise where all classmates are supposed to assist each other in areas of their respective digital strengths instead of looking to the teacher as the only guiding force. This greatly benefits the kids by developing their soft skills, like teamwork, communication, and creative thinking.
4. Keep the Movement Going
Compared to earlier digital technologies, sensory involvement has become greater nowadays. Using hybrid reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality tools can help kids be physically active while using their brains at the same time.
According to research, the brain stays more active when the subject is moving. A child’s cognition is strongly connected to his/her bodily interactions with the world. Therefore, learning and technology use need not be completely devoid of motion. For example, teachers can place QR codes around the classroom so children can scan them and learn more about augmented reality apps.
5. Take a Break from the Media
Although research indicates different benefits of using the current technology for learning purposes, guidelines have been established to manage time with technology. Parents and teachers are responsible for establishing media-free zones, and setting time and content constraints suitable to the age and curriculum. Students can maintain a healthy relationship with technology only if steps are taken to remove smartphones, turn off computers, and keep the area technology-free.
6. Show Solidarity for Cyber Citizenship
Students need to be taught digital etiquette, such as how to protect themselves on the Internet, how to present themselves, and how to think critically. Children, on the other hand, need to ape proper digital behavior and citizenship, and exhibit a willingness to learn. Adults should not automatically assume that children know the best way to interact responsibly and safely online. Primary students, especially, tend to lack critical skills. Parents and teachers should therefore teach them how to evaluate reliable online sources and media critically.
Integrating technology in the education sector is not an easy task. A healthy balance must be established, and it is up to the schools to ignore the buzz and design their own instruction. At the end of the day, it’s about offering students access to the best opportunities and access to current learning resources.