Used responsibly with admin support, technology to transform and invigorate learning.
GUEST COLUMN | by Michael Cassidy
Edtech is a new and exciting area of the classroom, but many educators are still wary of its promises and fear that traditional teaching methods are being neglected in lieu of an easier solution. New technology advancements in education aren’t another example of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new, but instead represent a happy medium where traditional teaching methods can marry with emerging edtech opportunities.
1. It’s not a replacement – it’s a supplement. Some educators fear that the rich tradition of teaching is being lost and replaced with gadgets and technology. However, mobile app learning should be embraced as a supplement to classic teaching methods. It allows a teacher’s effort to be more effective and efficient. The old-school mentality of grit and hard work can be melded with technology to enhance the learning experience. An educator’s job is to shape young minds to be successful in the world and workforce.
A mobile device is a Swiss army knife of amazing tools that students 15 years ago couldn’t dream of.
Today’s kids have a sphere of influence that is immersed with mobile technology, and mobile app learning in the classroom is an opportunity to learn proper use of this powerful tool. There are educational apps available that allow kids to create their own avatar and profiles, and immerse themselves in a character by creating a voice and unique personalization. These apps help kids practice what it means to have a social identity, and learn how their voice is heard on virtual platforms. It’s a first foray into their social persona without having to put it on official social media websites. Students can safely build a social presence, with the understanding that they will have to present themselves digitally in the future.
2. It’s not a distraction. App-powered devices that are used in the classroom don’t have to be the center of attention and in arms reach at all times. They should be treated like any other learning tool, like a protractor or ruler. It’s at the discretion of the teacher to determine when students should have access to devices. Chromebooks, iPads, and other learning hardware platforms have the best developers creating ways to monitor usage and restrict inappropriate downloads, so teachers can rest assured that learning is kept safe and focused.
3. Easy access. Lessons and homework can be saved on the cloud, allowing quick and easy access to documents and information. This also eliminates the problem of students losing their assignments, not to mention the dog can’t eat your homework when it’s on a network of servers. Teachers also have the luxury of a uniformed lesson format; a virtual ‘pile’ of papers to grade that can never get knocked over or tampered with. Analytics and usage reports are also an emerging area in edtech, and allow teachers to extract data on how their students are learning.
4. It doesn’t replace pen and paper. Many educators worry that increased use of technology will lead to a decreased use of pen and paper, a basic but essential skill. Many tablets, however, have advanced stylist pens that allow students to handwrite notes, and get them more excited about being able to transfer potentially monotonous writing with a pencil to engaging tech devices. With long division, a lesson that typically requires a large amount of pen to paperwork, interactive software can walk students through the process in an engaging and new way that makes the learning stick. With the help of digital analytics, teachers can now explore precisely where students are getting hung up on the problem.
5. Don’t let cost deter you. Financial concerns are a major deterrent to adoption of app-powered devices. Even if schools aren’t currently able to fully embrace edtech, administrators should have a plan on how to integrate the technology as it becomes financially feasible. Devices available today are astounding, and will only become more affordable as the technology advances. Kids can access world maps, a compass, and powerful calculators from one simple app. For classrooms that can’t supply these items to each student, a mobile device is a Swiss army knife of amazing tools that students 15 years ago couldn’t dream of. As price points go down, schools should have a go-live strategy that begins to integrate this technology.
While teachers and administrators have many hesitations about embracing mobile app learning, the benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives. The use of technology is only going to increase, and it’s an obligation for educators to prepare students for the inevitable saturation of apps and software in their professional lives. When used responsibly and with administrative support, mobile educational apps can transform and invigorate the classroom.
Michael Cassidy, author of The Skinny on Bullying, is Product Manager of Voki, an edtech tool allowing teachers and students to create their very own digital talking avatars.