The changing face of the classroom-What students want?

In today’s modern classroom, many schools in Ireland are swapping whiteboards, copybooks and even textbooks for new, advanced alternatives such as tablet computers and eBooks. Some teachers may downplay the importance of computers in the classroom, but it is undoubtedly the way of the future. Students want to utilise computers and devices more in the classroom: whether it be for watching informative video clips or for fun, interactive lessons.

This trend is set to continue as classrooms increasingly seek to integrate technology into their day to day learning. A study commissioned by the US Government questioned teachers and administrators and found these initial reasons to consider bringing technology into the classroom:

  • It can support the thinking processes
    “Many respondents stressed opportunities that technology provides for acquiring problem-solving skills - either through instructional software designed to teach problem solving or through the many requirements for solving problems that naturally emerge when one is trying to use computer tools to accomplish a task

  • Prepares students for the future
    Students will need to have the technological skills required in higher levels of education, and in the workplace at some point- it is important that they become familiar with such technology from an early age. On the flip-side, some students are being surrounded by technology in their daily lives; it just makes sense to use something many children are familiar with in the classroom.

  • Helps explore technology capabilities and develop technical skills.

How technology benefits students:

  • Technology can stimulate motivation and self-esteem:
    Students using technology in the classroom appeared dramatically more interested in class activities and they also got a better sense of their own capabilities.
  • Skill Development:
    Students at all levels can acquire and foster an impressive skillset, enabling them to tackle more complex tasks.
  • Collaboration with peers:
    Students can collaborate with each other to work on exciting and fun projects.
  • Interactivity:
    Students can engage in interactive lessons using tablets, which are significantly cheaper than desktop or laptop computers. By using software such as DisplayNote, more than 40 devices can mirror what’s happening on the teacher’s screen. Students can take and compare notes based on the lesson; this allows for a more focused and interactive learning experience.
  • Engagement:
    Using tablets in the classroom helps students stay engaged and excited about learning: they are using technology that is not only an interesting and new experience, but fun too.
  • Textbooks no more !!
    eBooks can allow students access to regularly updated and current information, a far cry from textbooks that may be heavy,  costly,  out of date or irrelevant.

One elementary school teacher in the USA comments on the adoption of tablets to classrooms:

“I see more confidence in the kids here. . . . I think it's not just computers, it's a multitude of things, but they can do things on the computers that most of their parents can't do and that's very empowering and exciting for them. It's "I can sit down and make this machine pretty much do what I want to," and there's something about that that gives them an extra little boost of, "Wow, I'm a pretty special person."

Recent studies in Chicago and Fairfax  — the first of their kind — found that tablets can make a difference in the learning habits of students.

  • Students had greater access to learning resources outside of school, and the students' use of the devices for educational purposes "exceeded expectations"
  • Teachers increased their communications with students and "creatively used the tablets in a variety of ways to engage students in learning"
  • Students changed their learning behaviours as a result of having the devices.
  • Allowed the students to increase the sophistication of their mobile learning activities;
  • Helped the students access learning materials at home "without having to compete with peers or family members" for Internet access
  • Gave teachers the opportunity to improve their productivity and "create new learning environments for their students."

Although the possibilities involving using technology in the classroom are endless, the importance of preserving handwriting skills has to be acknowledged; as the current situation stands, students sitting the Leaving Certificate and beyond will be writing a lot and will still need to learn and keep this important skill.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.”

Into the future:
With tablet adoption in classrooms on the rise, it is important that infrastructure follows suit. There is demand for better, faster Wi-Fi, meaning better routers, and according to the US Department of Education, the adoption of technology such as tablets can even mean more motivated students.

In our next blog we will discuss "The changing face of the classroom - What about the Teachers?..."

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please ring our office 01-216 6970 or send us your comments.