As technology use has grown across industries, it has become a foregone conclusion in many academic circles that technology access is fundamental to building “students of the future” who are prepared for the demands of technology in their future lives. Lower access to technology has simultaneously left low-income students stuck in a lower-performing cycle, unable to get out of the rut because they aren’t able to afford those same advantages. Most schools, therefore, have created policies that are either designed to provide one-to-one–that is, one device for every student–or a BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, policy. Devices have steadily increased in many classrooms–and they’ve brought plenty of problems along with them. As a result, many schools find themselves asking, “Do increased devices in the classroom actually improve student outcomes?”
Teachers Weigh In
As many as 91% of teachers feel that digital literacy is likely to be important to students’ future success. They’re using that technology in the classroom, too: while English teachers are more likely to encourage students to use devices in order to complete classwork, more than 73% of teachers use mobile technology in their classroom on a regular basis. Many teachers see the results of encouraging technology use in the classroom, from an engaging format that students are likely to enjoy using to a more personalized lesson plan for each student, thanks to apps that are able to grow along with student learning.
Are Apps Educational?
As early as preschool, students are able to see positive impacts from apps and other learning technology. Vocabulary, for example, increased by as much as 31% in children between the ages of 3 and 7 who regularly engaged with the Martha Speaks app in a study done by PBS. In Maine, it was discovered that iPads were able to help improve the literacy scores of kindergarten students. An iPad-equipped class of medical students increased their exam scores by 23%. In psychology class, device use–including laptops, phones, and tablets–led to notably higher scores and overall information retention. Using iPads even helps with math: students who were able to use these technology tools in their studies reported 20% higher math scores after a year of iPad use, compared to students who didn’t have access to these tools.
In short, using technology–whether in the form of apps or in the form of classroom tools designed to help enhance learning–is a surefire way to help increase student learning and raise the odds that students will retain the information presented to them in class.
The Issues with Technology
With so many schools and school systems advancing technology use in the classroom, teachers are faced with a number of well-known downsides. Increased device usage, in spite of enhancing learning, also causes:
- Increased distractions
- Difficulty keeping students on task
- Potential access to inappropriate material that could be detrimental to the student
Many teachers are finding that effective antivirus software is a must for devices used for students. Web filters that block websites with inappropriate content will also help prevent students from accessing that content during school hours–though in many cases, parents must provide that responsibility at home, when the device is off the school network. Loaner electronics and allowing students to “buddy” with one another temporarily if they’ve forgotten their devices at home can help solve the problem of students who don’t have access to devices in the classroom.
Today’s students live in a digital world, and learning how to use those tools effectively is an important part of their overall learning. Using devices in the classroom–including laptops, smartphones, iPads, and more–can in many cases advance learning outcomes and make it easier for students to meet their educational goals. Training them in digital citizenship, however, is equally important. This may include things like:
- Teaching students how to behave responsibly online, including posting only appropriate content
- Reminding students to keep their devices locked and password protected when they aren’t in use
- Discussing how to behave in an online environment, including avoiding bullying
- Helping students become aware of the permanence of online information and how the content they create today can impact their futures.
While there is still a long way to go to learn how to successfully integrate technology in the classroom in spite of many of the potential challenges that go along with it, many teachers have discovered that using devices in their classrooms makes learning progress more smoothly for many students. If you want to learn more about the advantages of devices in the classroom, contact us today to learn more about how they’re used in our school.