Educational technology, like every other area heavily influenced by tech, is in a constant state of change. Opinions about which tech is the best to use in the classroom change weekly and the ideas behind the implementation of edtech change almost daily. Too often, the discussion focuses on that question of which tech is best to use in the classroom and does not focus on what we want students to achieve or create. The technology used in a classroom should always support and transform education to be more effective for students. The goals of technology use should never be to use the latest and greatest tech because it's “cool” or “students love this app.”
As we integrate technology in our classrooms, we must be mindful of how we use technology and, more importantly, how our students use technology to expand their minds in new ways. Education is and has always been, a discipline that has far-reaching effects. With the use of technology in classrooms expanding and increasing, these effects are spreading faster reaching farther than ever before in the history of the human race.
Our students have access to more information than at any time in history. Their lives are impacted by outside forces that society couldn't dream about even twenty years ago. How we use technology in the classroom should reflect current technology trends so we can leverage what is relevant now for our students, not what was relevant 5 years ago.
While current trends in educational technology change swiftly, broader themes often emerge that trends can support, no matter the technologies behind them. In this article, I review four current themes that are being greatly influenced by current trends in educational technology. With each topic, implementation ideas and possible impacts are included.
Amplifying Student Voice
A topic that often comes up during discussions in education is that of student voice. As noted in the Glossary of Education Reform,
In education, student voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions (Student, 2013).
As time has passed, great teachers have discovered that allowing students to become active participants in the design and structure of learning has paid enormous dividends. But it doesn't just stop there. Amplifying student voice does more than just allow students to choose how to complete an assignment or demonstrate their learning, it empowers them to take full control of their learning.
With advances in accessibility, students with disabilities can now read independently (Bolkan, 2017) and even allowed students with dyslexia to participate and excel in writing (Redford, 2013). The leaps made in these technologies in the last ten years have allowed students who struggled and felt left out of classes to now become active participants and be empowered in their learning.
Online video is growing at an exponential rate and we should be taking advantage of that platform with our students. With apps like Flipgrid (Chang, 2017), students can easily express themselves using online video in safe environments while practicing digital citizenship. Apps like Flipgrid promote student voice by giving the students an opportunity to use technologies that are familiar and relevant while encouraging thoughtful participation.
Increasing Parent Engagement
Schools are entrusted every day with the responsibility of educating someone else's children. As such, we are always looking for ways to improve not only parent communication but parent engagement in their child's learning.
How much time we spend engaging with parents can speak volumes about how much we truly care about meeting the needs of the whole child and not just meeting growth goals on a pre-populated district-mandated school improvement plan.
Getting parents more engaged is mostly about meeting parents where they are right now. Schools should make every effort to open lines of communication that can be used by as many parents as possible rather than choosing one method that parents must adapt to and use.
The first step in this process can be simply surveying parents to see how they prefer to communicate and what languages they use (Noonoo, 2017). This process can be easily accomplished with technology, including producing materials in multiple languages. Google Translate is an amazing tool that is available on the web and in every Google Doc and is one of many translation tools available.
Through the use of a learning management system, parents have a window into their child's classroom and can, if used properly, communicate regularly with teachers. Video conferencing is available on many platforms and can make parent-teacher conferences easier and accessible to larger numbers of parents (Chapman, 2017)
Every school needs a social media plan. Every school needs a hashtag to use across social media. Social media is a completely free platform that not many schools are leveraging properly. Proper usage of these platforms can build parent-teacher ties, grow school pride, and build a community of caring individuals whose number one priority is authentic student learning (Berdik, 2016).
Exploring Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is not a new topic. Attempts have been made since the nineteenth century to create environments that model other places (History, n.d.). Much of my generation is familiar with the View-Master toys and remember fondly shuffling through 3D pictures from movies, cartoons, and national parks.
However, recent advances have made virtual reality more accessible to students and can now provide opportunities for learning that have not been available before. Students can take virtual field trips to destinations not accessible to the vast majority of schools and experience immersive learning environments (Probert, 2017).
As with any technology, the usage of virtual reality must be in support of authentic learning for students, not just the opportunity to use a new cool tool. Cool changes quickly. Authenticity sticks.
Increasing Student Engagement
In my opinion, solving the student engagement problem will solve the vast majority of other problems we experience in education. If students are engaged, behavior issues decrease and the opportunity for authentic learning to take place is increased. However, student engagement can't just be about getting students to use a new piece of technology because it's “cool”. The temptation for tech geeks like me is strong to try every new tool that comes down the pipeline.
But new and shiny does not equate to strong and lasting. We must be cautious with how we use technology to increase student engagement.
While it's good to know the tools that can aid in student engagement (Lynch, 2017) the most important action we can take with technology integration and student engagement is to think about what we want students to do and decide how the tech can support that action. Our use of technology to increase student engagement must center on finding ways to involve all students in the discussion, to provide opportunities for every student to participate and share their insight on topics.
Tools like Pear Deck provide opportunities for every student to participate in the discussion, no matter where they are socially or what their current educational level may be (Boost, 2016). Tools that allow students to participate in group discussions anonymously can be powerful tools to increase engagement and work hand in hand with increasing student voice to empower learners.
Current Trends in Educational Technology – A Briefing
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Berdik, C. (2016, November 16). Schools want more community engagement. Social media can help. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/11/using_social_media_to_promote_community_engagement_with_schools.html
Bolkan, J. (2017, October 24). Microsoft intros immersive reader in Word for iPad, other accessibility updates. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/24/microsoft-unveils-immersive-reader-in-word-for-ipad-other-accessibility-updates.aspx
Boost student engagement using the world around you. (2016, November 30). Retrieved from https://medium.com/pear-deck/boost-student-engagement-using-the-world-around-you-2ce24581e8ba
Chang, R. (2017, January 9). Flipgrid introduces new student voice video app, grows to 40,000 classrooms. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/01/09/flipgrid-introduces-new-student-voice-video-app-grows-to-40000-classrooms.aspx
Chapman, K. (2017, June 15). 3 ways to use technology for amazing parental engagement. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/06/16/technology-parents-engagement/?all
History of virtual reality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html
Lynch, M. (2017, October 10). 7 Must-Have apps, tools, and resources for maximum student engagement. Retrieved from http://www.thetechedvocate.org/7-must-apps-tools-resources-maximum-student-engagement/
Noonoo, S. (2017, October 11). 5 strategies for increasing engagement with ELL families. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/11/5-strategies-for-increasing-engagement-with-ell-families.aspx
Probert, C. (2017, April 05). Using the ‘virtual’ to change the ‘reality’ of education. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/04/07/virtual-reality-change-education/
Redford, K. (2013, November). How speech-to-text transformed a student's 5th grade year. Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/educators/school-culture/how-speech-to-text-transformed-a-students-5th-grade-year/
Student voice definition. (2013, December 20). Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/student-voice/