From Chalkboards to Smart Boards Subhead: Using Educational Technology in the Classroom

By Amanda Landwehr
Staff Reporter

Image courtesy of Queen’s University on Flickr.

Students at Roosevelt University likely remember the first time their middle or high school introduced technology to the classroom. The wonder, surprise and anticipation that accompanied the development of new technologies is nothing less than exciting to both students and educators. Young students are writing algebraic equations on smart boards, taking quizzes on iPads and even planning advising appointments on school-wide cell phone applications.

With the development of social media, the world is becoming increasingly connected through mobile devices and computers. As technology continues to evolve, the workforce is creating more jobs in high-tech fields such as cyber security and software development. According to a study published by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 600,000 jobs in advanced technology are projected to be added to the workforce in the coming years. Because of the rise in these positions, students and young professionals face an increased pressure to develop a working knowledge of these advanced technologies.

In order to prepare a new generation of workers for jobs in technology, and appeal to a demographic reliant on social media, teachers have integrated multiple technologies into their lesson plans. As learning technologies continue to develop, how is the education system working to integrate these tools into the classroom?

Professor Priscilla Perkins has been teaching English and literature courses at Roosevelt University since 1996. Perkins said she supports the integration of technology into the contemporary classroom, and is still learning how to utilize these learning tools in her lesson plans.

“I’ve been using various digital technologies, and encouraging students to use them in their own work since I first started teaching at Roosevelt,” said Perkins. “As early as 1999, I was building class websites with my historical fiction students in order to showcase their writing. By today’s standards, those websites look hilarious, but we were very proud of them because we had to learn so much to make them work.”

Learning how to use technology in and outside of the classroom seems like a never ending process, as computers and other machineries are constantly evolving. However, gaining an understanding for technologies its features can connect educators to the past.

“Students in my 19th century American poetry classes have used digitized textbooks from the 1840s to learn how to recite poems in the style of that period – and then they’ve made videos of themselves performing the poetry,” said Perkins. “When I teach black lives in U.S. literature, we’ll use publicly-available datasets about police violence in order to make graphic visualizations of typical storylines in contemporary novels about black and brown people.”

Despite the benefits of integrating technology into the education system described by Perkins, the debate over using technology within the classroom is just beginning. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers reported a “significant impact” of technology on their lesson plans, as the integration of learning technologies required more work on their part to be an effective teacher. These teachers argue that technology is distracting students from lesson plans, as students may divert their attention from a teacher’s presentation to check their cell phone.

Additionally, 56 percent of these teachers reported that digital learning technologies work to “widen the gap between the most and least academically successful students.” Higher income school districts typically have more access to technological resources, which gives certain students somewhat of an educational advantage over lower income districts who might not have the ability to afford tablets and computers.

As a result of these controversial topics, multiple educators argue against the usage of social media and other learning technologies within the classroom. However, Perkins remains firm in her support of using technology as an educational tool.

“There have always been 1001 ways for students to distract themselves from what’s happening in the classroom, so social media itself is not the problem that some professors say it is,” said Perkins. “Obviously, it’s hard to teach when some students are texting or shopping online for shoes. But in the end, because digital technology is everywhere, I think it needs to be part of students’ learning experiences.”

Ji-Haye Park is an English professor at Roosevelt University. According to Park, technology has almost always been integrated into her lesson plans.

“My handwriting is horrible, so I began using PowerPoint presentations early on in my teaching career at Roosevelt,” said Park. “I’ve been using technology in my lessons for well over ten years now.”

Aside from preventing students from having to read handwritten lesson plans, Park claimed that using videos and slideshow presentations have greatly benefited her students, and helps to make classroom lessons more engaging.

“Younger students like podcasts and websites, not just something written on paper,” said Park. “It helps to hold their attention spans and keeps things interesting.”

Finance major Elissa Salhab said she has noticed an improvement in the convenience and quality her learning with the integration of media technologies into her education.

“I believe that having access to technology makes learning easier and more convenient,” said Salhab. “I much prefer having all my notes and assignments in one place rather than carrying notebooks everywhere. I still favor taking handwritten notes, which is why I use my iPad Pro during class as it has the ability to convert my handwriting into text. By doing so, I can ensure that I won’t lose any documents because they are conveniently organized together.”

Salhab believes that learning technologies are only going to increase with the future of education. Additionally, Salhab claims that technology and digital assignments make students more responsible for submitting assignments on time.

“Future classrooms will definitely be more technology oriented—I wouldn’t be surprised if more schools began taking the paperless route,” said Salhab.

“The ability to use the internet and know the answer to any question within seconds makes the life of the student easier. I also find that students having to turn in assignments online makes them more accountable for their work, as a student can’t say that they forgot a paper assignment at home.”

Whether students watch a science experiment on YouTube or play a history review game on Kahoot, the recent trend of integrating technology into the classroom has seemingly just begun. According to a study by PBS, nearly 2 million classrooms throughout 75 different countries use SMART boards and other learning technologies. With such widespread influence, it is evident that computers, tablets and other educational devices have no intention of slowing down.

Although learning how to use the technologies found in modern lesson plans can be somewhat of a frustrating process for people born before the digital age, Perkins has an optimistic approach to gaining a knowledge for technology.

“Whatever I teach, I try to stretch myself to try new tools so that both the students and I are learning something new.”

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