As digital devices become further assimilated into our daily lives, their use in education is the subject of fierce debate. Some argue that digital tools undermine traditional teaching methods, while others insist that they actually enhance the learning environment.
Is either side right, or does a mix of analogue and digital make the most sense in today’s classroom? Let’s investigate.
The days of blackboards and chalk are over. They’ve been replaced by interactive whiteboards; the new centrepiece of the modern classroom. From an interactive whiteboard, teachers can deliver presentations, save and distribute notes from class discussions, navigate to online resources, make each class more accessible for students with disabilities, and create a fun, flexible learning environment. Plus, schoolkids love the novelty of writing on an interactive whiteboard!
Some schools now loan their students a laptop or Chromebook to help support their learning, as well as to ensure that they have guaranteed access to the technology they need to complete assignments. Buying a machine for every learner can involve an expensive outlay for schools, but many are able to benefit from sponsorships or bulk-buy discounts.
Most schools prohibit the use of mobile phones in the classroom. However, some are integrating handheld technology into their classes. Tablets are generally less expensive than laptops and now offer similar functionality. They’re great for interactive, teacher-led tasks, as well as creative assignments, independent research, and reading.
Let’s not overlook the bastion of classroom technology: the humble desktop PC. These enduring machines still serve an important purpose in the modern learning environment. They provide access to online resources and software that requires a more powerful processor than tablets can offer while giving young people the chance to further develop their IT skills.
Circumstances like bad weather can lead to temporary school closures, which create unplanned breaks in learning. We’re now on the cusp of snow days becoming as archaic as blackboards. Teachers will be able to deliver their classes remotely to a full class of (possibly disgruntled) students, no matter the weather. So long as there is a steady internet connection, no one has to miss out, which is particularly good for locations with harsh winters or summers that create unsafe learning conditions in the classroom.
As VR technology continues to develop, learners will have access to immersive learning experiences. From maths games to historical re-enactments and virtual field trips, VR is likely to prove revolutionary in education.
The digital revolution has made information more accessible than ever before. From a computer or mobile device, students have access to an infinite number of resources to guide their learning and support their academic assignments.
Reading about a historical event, an inspirational speech, or a far-flung corner of the world is one thing. Being able to watch or listen to it brings learning to life. Digital devices connect students with experiences they might otherwise never have.
Let’s be honest; kids are already pretty knowledgeable when it comes to computers! But the ability to channel their skills into research, assignments, and creative projects is an attribute that will stand young people in good stead as they grow up.
The amount of time young people spend in front of a screen has become a concern for many parents in recent years. Schools must be mindful of this and keep screen time to a minimum, particularly for younger children. Offline interactive learning experiences should also be encouraged.
Placing an emphasis on digital research without teaching offline research skills can prevent students from exploring libraries and other sources that offer unique, high-quality information..
Digital devices can prove distractingin the classroom if not properly managed. Parental controls should be used to prohibit non-educational browsing, and equipment should be packed away when not in use.
Technology in the classroom can be used to enrich the learning experience of students. When used appropriately, digital devices encourage independent research, interactive education, and better understanding of concepts that are otherwise difficult to grasp.
That said, analogue research and learning tools should still be promoted. Libraries are full of high-quality, information-dense resources, some of which can’t be found online. Exposing students to different learning strategies from an early age empowers them to gather material from diverse sources throughout their academic careers.
In short, digital devices do have a place in the modern classroom. They are part of a broader learning puzzle that pulls together digital and offline techniques, alongside real-life experiences and independent study. Finding a balance between all components creates an educational environment that allows all students to thrive.