Wednesday, February 25th, 2009...9:21 am

Technology in the Classroom

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Driving to work this morning, curiosity got the best of me and I found myself pulling ever-closer to the car in front of me in an effort to read the tiny print on an intriguing bumper sticker. When I finally managed to make out what it said, I realized it was a rant against tailgaters.  

Now that was ironic. Obviously the poor woman has had some issues with tailgaters.  But I’m willing to bet she gets tailgated at least twice as often now that she’s driving around with that ill-conceived bumper sticker on her car.  The bumper sticker was a knee-jerk response to a problem, NOT a clearly thought-out strategy for dealing with the issue.  Someday it could turn out to be disastrous.

It’s the same with instructional technology. Almost everyone would agree today’s students need more and better technology than we had back in the day. But simply throwing money into equipment is not the answer. The best equipment money can buy is useless without a strategy for using it to teach the content students need to learn.  

But how do you come up with the best strategy? Much is written these days about The 21st Century Classroom - a concept that incorporates all the tools and concepts that add up to a learning environment that prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s world.

That certainly doesn’t look like the traditional classroom where students are lined up in rows, listening to a teacher lecture about subjects that don’t seem real to them.  But there is not yet a true consensus on how the 21st Century Classroom should look.

Should every student have his or her own laptop?  Should cell phones be banned from the classroom or used in service of learning?  Are tech tools a panacea or Pandora’s Box?  Is collaboration the key to success or the gateway to chaos?

As the debates play out, we’d like to know what you think.  Feel free to add your comments below…


  • I would love to see laptops in every lap during certain classes. I can see this adding to a discussion during a social studies class, like current events and government. I imagine having a discussion about the national debt while some students watch the national debt clock tick away, some scan current blogs for economist’s opinions, and others read the Wall Street Journal online. Blogs and wiki spaces are great realtime tools that play an important role in the “real world”, why not in the classroom, to help students learn to defend and support their positions?
    I detest certain aspects of tech at the hands of independent learners. It takes time to learn how to learn, and that you get out of education what you put into it, and if all you do is text “OMG IDK!” then all you will learn is “OMG IDK!” There has to be a delicate balance of self exploration and strong guidance. I am currently subbing and have been extremely disappointed in my local school district’s and teacher’s policies regarding these learning tools. That’s what they should be used for, and this adds a bit more work to keep students on the right path (and safe, but that’s a whole other conversation) and keep them ENGAGED. I have found that “lightning rounds” of use, where they need to find or post certain information within a minimal amount of time, keeps them interested and engaged, before I demand their attention away from the tool again in class.
    Just my brief thoughts…

  • I agree that technology is so important in today’s classroom. It’s a must for the 21st century student! Now that that has been said, I must express the importance of training teachers on how to use that technology. Our school has technology bursting from it’s seams, but teachers must find time, energy and the desire to take time to learn how to use it effectively.

  • Wow, are you right on the money with that comment! Professional development that shows how to use the technology in the service of teaching the content is so critical and so often overlooked.

    We’ve had some opportunities to show the importance of training - and incorporating technology into the ‘big picture’ of teaching - through research in several schools across the state. Through a partnership with the North Carolina Technology Association, we’ve been able to provide the professional development component for several classroom technology demonstration projects.

    Over the past five years, participating schools have been provided with technology tools along with training to help them figure out what to do with those tools. The research done in conjunction with those projects consistently shows that professional development is a key to making the technology expenditures pay off in the classroom. If you want to see details, they’re available on the NCTA partnership page of our website.

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