In a previous post, I shared some thoughts on technology integration and how tech in the classroom is too often an add-on or extra and not part of an authentic learning experience. In fact, technology is so vital in today’s world that it’s on par with the school library. It’s that important. Your community would never support getting rid of your library. Yet, some schools still don’t fully accept technology for learning. Some even ban it from the classroom.
But having technology is not enough. There are millions wasted every year on technology that goes largely unused or is implemented in ways that don’t really transform anything.
Like the teacher I spoke with who had iPads available in her classroom, but hadn’t even turned them on. She didn’t know what to do with them. It would be easy to criticize her for allowing this to happen. But where was the support to help her know what to do with them? Who was there to work with her to learn about using them?
In most classrooms, the available technology is actually used, but not in ways to really transform learning. At best, it’s used as a hook to achieve greater engagement. At worst, it’s a canned program that simply delivers content. Neither of these scenarios results in a shift in agency to the learner. It doesn’t transform learning. If we want adaptable, self-directed learners, students need opportunities to use technology in authentic, transformational ways.
7 Ways Technology Can Transform Learning
1. Authentic Audience
It’s really sad that most work students do in school ultimately ends up in a trash can. The audience for their efforts is usually the teacher and maybe their classmates, but rarely is work shared beyond the school walls. By using digital tools it is possible to share work to a potentially unlimited audience, and it’s possible to curate the work so it’s available forever. Say goodbye to the trash can finish.
When students work for an authentic audience, it is potentially a game changer. Instead of just completing assignments in a manner that is “good enough” they now want the work to be just plain “good.” And how the work is received can provide excellent feedback. An authentic audience multiplies the possibilities for feedback. As any blogger can attest, having an audience changes everything, and really makes you think about your ideas.
While technology is not necessary to be creative, access can facilitate many new ways to express ideas in original ways. Digital content is easily captured, shared, and combined as an outlet to creative thought. In short, digital tools give rise to more possibilities for creation and innovation.
3. 24/7 Learning
Access to a connected device makes it possible for learning to continue beyond the classroom. Sure I guess that sort of happened before. You took your textbook home to study, right? Well, some people did. But now learners have the sum of human knowledge available on their smartphone, anytime, anywhere. When I need to learn just about anything, one of my top sources is YouTube. It’s helped me repair our vacuum and help the kids with algebra homework. It’s a shame it’s blocked in so many schools.
4. Global Connections
We learn so much more when we connect and share with others. Now we can connect with anyone in the world with minimal effort. It’s possible to learn directly from experts in the field. Classrooms can connect across oceans. Global connections allow us to see diverse perspectives and understand problems with implications beyond the local community.
5. Learner Agency
Technology provides opportunities for individual learning paths. Not everyone has to learn everything in the same time, in the same space, with the same lessons. Students can learn about things that are important to them, in ways that they choose. Technology allows for students to take greater ownership and be more self-directed. Learning is more meaningful when it is personal.
6. Collaboration and Communication
Technology is tranformational when it allows learners to work in teams, share ideas, and collaborate on new projects. Learner can work together and share ideas even when they are apart. Digital tools allow for amazing new ways to connect around sharing ideas and tasks.
7. Curiosity and Inquiry
Technology allows students to pursue answers to their own questions. True understanding doesn’t happen by memorizing facts or seeking right answers. Understanding is developed by developing questions, interpreting information, and drawing conclusions. Curiosity taps into a sense of wonder and makes learning come alive. Technology provides access to information and inspiration to magnify curiosity and inquiry.