Today’s schools are radically different from when the Baby Boomers were in the classroom, or at least they should be. Just as technology has changed the workplace, school systems need to keep pace with the latest technologies and the new possibilities they present. Unfortunately, school systems are often slow to adopt change.
There has been increased pressure on schools to allocate more money to fund technology in the classroom. Despite ongoing budgetary pressure, school systems are allocated more funds to educational technology. According to CB Insights, funding of educational technology climbed 55 percent in 2014 and should continue to be strong as schools strive to keep pace with new technology. Teachers are driving more technology adoption in the classroom as they experiment with new instructional strategies. For example, a survey by BESA shows that 82 percent of teachers surveyed that students wanted to use tablet computers in the classroom, and the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 43 percent of teachers are already allowing students to use iPads in class.
Unfortunately, change comes slowly for many school systems. Here are just some of the legacy educational strategies that have become dinosaurs in today’s Web-driven world:
1. Computer Rooms
When personal computers were just starting to come onto the market, schools made an effort to stay current with this latest innovation by establishing computer rooms with PCs that students could share. The days of the computer lab are long gone. Personal computers have become an integral part of our everyday lives, and students need to have their own PCs for classwork, just as most of them have their own PC at home. Most teachers are developing new curricula that rely extensively on technology, and schools are equipping students with laptops or tablets so each student has his or her own learning tool.
2. No Network Access
As with the computer lab, any access to the school network was limited, including access to the Internet. Today, lessons rely on network access to share files and surf the Web as part of class assignments. Every classroom has to have access to the school network and the Internet. In fact, to support student lessons on their portable computing systems, most classrooms are outfitted with the latest 802.11ac wireless technology to give everyone in the class simultaneous Internet access.
3. Isolated ClassroomsWith Internet access, classrooms are no longer self-contained cocoons of learning. Students can now gather information from anywhere on the Web and use technologies such as video conferencing and Skype to listen to remote guest lecturers or exchange ideas with other students anywhere in the world.
4. Banning Phones and Tablets in the ClassroomTexting has become the equivalent of passing notes during class, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Connecting students to collaborate and exchanging ideas using handheld devices has become the new norm in the classroom. Teachers need to encourage students to use technology to collaborate on class projects. By channeling use of smartphone and tablets, teachers can make them an integral part of the lesson.
5. Group InstructionIn the past, teachers would treat all students in the same way. They would lecture to the class and expect everyone to understand the material in the same way since they were all the same age. That type of one-lesson-fits-all approach left many kids behind. Today, teachers are using technology to promote individualized lessons. Technology is driving flipped classroom instruction across the country. In the flipped classroom, the students are given materials to study in advance, outside the classroom, using their tablets and laptops to view pre-recorded lessons. Students then discuss the lessons in class and teachers work with them on an individual basis to reinforce comprehension. Without technology, this kind of self-paced learning would be impossible.
6. Teachers Working in IsolationIn the past, each teacher was responsible for instructing his or her students, developing lesson plans for each day’s class. Thanks to computer technology, it’s now easy to record lessons to use again or to share with colleagues. Now instructors with expertise in science, English, or history can record lessons and share them with their peers for use in their own classrooms.
7. TextbooksTextbooks tend to be outdated as soon as they are printed, yet school systems have had to use the same texts for years to justify the cost of their purchase. Today’s classrooms don’t even need printed textbooks. The three publishers that produce 90 percent of school texts – Houghton Mifflin, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill – are all producing digital versions of school texts. Using eBooks means that information can be updated, corrected, and added without requiring new texts, and new content and classroom exercises are only a mouse click away.
8. School LibrariesThe Web has changed the way we do research. Rather than going to the library to research a school report or project, students now rely on Web search to find the latest information. Rather than showing students how to use the Dewey Decimal system to find library books, teachers now show students how to find data on the web, how to look at web resources, and how to assess the reliability of online content.
Computer technology has changed education for the better, but many classrooms are still using outdated educational tools. As the benefits of technology in the classroom are more widely recognized, schools are investing in wireless networking, tablets, digital whiteboards, online software licenses, and other technology tools that work together to improve teaching and bring their classrooms into the 21st century.
What else have you seen outdated technology in schools holding back students and faculty at your local school?