Benefits and Challenges of Modern Digital Classrooms

Digital Classroom First off, it is important to establish a working definition of modern digital classrooms; don’t you think? In this, we shouldn’t focus on the what, i.e. whether a class is fully 1:1, but the why and the howIt comes down to this: digital classroom teachers integrate technology to enhance student learning, using it in a balanced and authentic way.

Before we move on, let’s break it down even further.  Virtual high-fives for modern digital classroom teachers who:

  1. Use technology platforms and tools to help students collaborate, communicate, and be creative, critical thinkers.
  2. Integrate technology in authentic ways that allow for tasks not possible with pen and paper.
  3. Collect and interpret online data to make informed decisions about instruction.

If used well, technology can be like Buzz Lightyear in your classroom story. Maybe you’ve formed a pretty comfortable “friendship” with teaching, but now technology is on the scene and you’re not sure how it fits into the picture. Never fear, Woody, technology can take you places not possible with traditional classroom activities (although there is still a time and a place for those)…maybe even to “infinity and beyond.”  

Here’s why I love my digital classroom:

  1. More possibilities = creative and authentic assessments

    • Teachers have more tools at their fingertips than ever before. Students can create screencasts, participate in quiz games, use writing tools, collaborate electronically, make and edit videos, create portfolios, and much more.
  2. Student accountability increases

    • Teachers can see and monitor digital student progress. My students know I will be checking their work, guiding and leaving feedback, and re-teaching or directing to additional resources which holds them accountable on a daily basis.
    • Electronic work leaves a “revision history” and is often timestamped. #NoMoreLateWorkExcuses
  3. Differentiate using data

    • Data collection is a powerful way to differentiate and plan for student needs. The key is taking the time to interpret the data. This doesn’t have to be intimidating – even a quick skill-based tally chart or note about overall trends can be helpful!
    • Use of most technology tools also results in a pretty sweet set of data (often broken down by question and/or student).
  4. Technology engages students

    • Our students already live in a digital world, and are hard-wired to respond to it.
    • Technology-rich lessons create opportunities for teachers to get away from teacher-centered class activities to more hands-on, skill-based practice.

Despite its benefits, there are still some hurdles to clear when it comes to meaningful and authentic technology integration. 

  1. Classroom culture and expectations must be established to ensure appropriate use of technology.
  2. Technology-rich lessons aren’t necessarily less work, just different
  3. Not all teachers are tech-savvy and confident when it comes to using technology; professional development and support are needed.

Whoa there…proceed with caution.  Here are four things to consider about digital technology (as much as we love it!): 

  1. Overuse

    • I teach at the high school level, and as our school made the switch to have Chromebooks in every classroom, most teachers embraced it quickly and used it every day. However, students gave feedback that they actually liked and craved pen and paper activities. Let’s face it, if a student has 6-8 classes in a day and he or she is staring at a screen for the majority of that time, that’s a lot of screen time!
  2. Technology = Magic Cure… (said no teacher ever)

    • A colleague of mine put it well: “Technology gives students a new way to disengage.” This is why it is so important to set classroom expectations for technology use and to use it purposefully.
    • There will still be intentional non-learners, issues outside of the classroom that impact students, administrative agendas, skill deficits…the list goes on.
    • Technology is just a part of an effective teacher’s strategy toolbox, not the whole toolbox.
  3. Not all technology is purposeful

    • It’s easy to use technology for the sake of using technology. I know that I’ve been guilty, cue the facepalm, of not carefully thinking through my “why.” This can cause students to equate technology with busywork and also create more work for teachers to look at and assess.
    • Teachers must train themselves to consider the purpose for using technology in the classroom, as well as their classroom philosophy about technology use. This will allow careful selection of technology tools and platforms and help teachers to avoid using every flashy, cool new technology toy.
  4. Support is needed

    • Professional development, mentoring, and a supportive administration are important in order for teachers to embrace any type of change.

All-in-all, teachers who use technology are doing so many good things for students.  It’s important to take it one step at a time, be reflective, celebrate small and big wins, and share your ideas with others. We’re all better together!

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