Students and Technology: The Bridges We Need To Overcome for Success

Technology is the disruptive force shaping our future, which is why teaching technical literacy has become a vital part of today’s classroom. Students are being introduced to technology at an earlier age, using smartphones and computers to play games, search the web, and to talk to family and friends. Today’s students are comfortable with technology and have become accustomed to the rapid pace of technological change. The task educators face is to show students how to apply technology to do more than just play games and chat with friends. Teachers need to challenge students to apply technology in new and disruptive ways that will shape our future.

Just as employees are bringing their own devices to work, students are bringing their own technology into the classroom. According to a study by Project Tomorrow, 89 percent of high school students have access to smartphones, 50 percent have access to tablet computers, and 60 percent have access to laptops. Even 50 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 have mobile devices. And there are new technologies making their way into the classroom. Virtual reality, 3D printing, wearable devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) all offer new educational opportunities.

Promoting excitement and innovation driven by technology will inspire students to apply technology to address the world’s problems.

Separate the Tools From the Lesson

One of the biggest challenges of adopting technology in the classroom is confusing the medium with the message. Too often, learning how to use the technology overshadows the underlying purpose of the lesson. For example, teaching students how to build a website or wiki is a noble classroom project, if the students understand that the purpose is to convey information, not just build a website. Too often the focus falls too sharply on the “cool tools” and the applications for those tools is lost.

Students need to develop an appreciation for the power of technology; not an easy task. Students are more comfortable with technology that still baffles many of their teachers, so giving them an understanding of the power of technology tools requires insight and inspiration.
Consider that social media has become an integrated part of students’ lives. They use Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other online social tools without thinking. The educator's’ job is to make them think, not only about how technology works but about the potential risks and benefits of these technologies.

Technology needs to be viewed in social context. Twitter, for example, can be a fun way to share updates, but Twitter has been a force for social change as well. During times of insurrection and civil war sharing news via Twitter has often been the only means of gathering information. The application of social networks to effect social change is growing as more people come to understand the power of online community.

The focus of education needs to be on applying technology to achieve a desired outcome, not just how to use the tools.

How Technology Disrupts Education

To help students understand how to apply technology, we need to empower students using technology. New teaching strategies based on interactive and shared learning driven by the Web and computing devices gives students new ways to learn and provides hands-on experience in how to apply the latest technology.

For example:

Personalized Learning

Educational technology helps teachers develop customized lessons that suit individual student skill levels. As student populations become more diverse, software and online lessons can create a customized learning experience that helps students nurture their academic strengths and improve areas where they are weak.

One-to-One Computing

To create a digital culture in the classroom every student needs to have access to a computer. The cost of tablets and netbooks has dropped to the point where they have become the preferred tools in today’s classroom – the cost of a tablet and digital textbooks is roughly the same as the cost of buying paper textbooks for multiple classes. One computer for every student opens new possibilities for personalized instruction, interactive projects, better tracking of student progress, and improved communications between the teacher, the student, the school, and the parents.

Blended Learning

Schools that aren’t able to equip every student with computing hardware often apply a blended learning strategy, mixing personalized computer time with group learning in order to make the most of available computing resources. Instruction usually integrates personalized lessons with group activities.

Flipped Classroom

An increasingly popular teaching model is flipped learning, where students use computers or mobile devices to learn on their own, watching taped lectures and using interactive lessons. Class time is used for one-to-one instruction to reinforce the lessons, answer questions, and address problems. Flipped learning only works if every student has the same access to computing technology.

As we continue to evolve into a digitally driven culture, the role of technology is increasingly taken for granted. Today’s students use technology as part of their day, communicating electronically, looking up information on the Web, accessing digital entertainment, and performing a variety of digitally enabled tasks that were undreamed of a few decades ago. The goal of educators today has to be not only harnessing technology to improve education, but imbuing a sense of the power of technology to change the world.

As part of that effort, we are sponsoring the NSI Technology Scholarship. We invite students to tell us how they see technology disrupting the future and changing the world as we know it. The winning 500-word essays will receive a scholarship to help pay for education at a Connecticut college or accredited school.

Where do you see technology having a disruptive influence in the years to come? We would love to hear from you.

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About The Author

President of NSI, Tom has been helping small and medium businesses succeed in Connecticut for over 25 years.