Emerging technologies like VR are enabling students to make virtual field trips to Mars while remaining inside the classroom.
EdTech: Coming Soon to Your Classroom
As technology continues to play an ever-growing role in our daily lives, pioneering schools around the world are making the decision to implement an EdTech solution in the classroom in the hopes of improving digital literacy and preparing students for the future. The usage of EdTech has grown so widespread that IBIS Capital, a London-based consultancy firm, predicts that the global Edtech market will reach $252 billion by 2020. While certainly impressive, your focus as an educator is on your classroom and the students that inhabit it during the day. Rather than looking at education from a 10,000-foot view, your main concerns lie at the personal level—the unique needs of each and every one of your students.
Step 1: Identifying Needs
Prior to starting your search for the right EdTech solution, it is necessary to first identify the problems you intend to solve. As a teacher, no one knows better than you the educational needs of your classroom. Teachers have both the privilege and the responsibility of evaluating the performance of their students and pinpointing the specific areas that need improvement. In order to make this decision, you must ask yourself, “Do my students underperform in key areas such as math, reading, science or computer skills?” If the answer is yes, you should then research, what tools and resources are currently available to help you improve your performance in your role as an educator?”
Step 2: Searching for Tools
Websites like commonsense.org provide educators with a full database of EdTech solutions and enable them to search by parameters, such as grade, subject, skill, platform, purpose, and many more. For example, a 4th-grade teacher who would like to assess their students ‘ critical thinking and math skills on an iPad can filter through the results to find an EdTech solution that meets those exact requirements. Furthermore, you can see reviews from the editor and from other teachers like yourself.
Step 3: Evaluating the Options
One of the most important and difficult steps of this process is evaluating the options. Again, ask yourself the original question: “Would this EdTech solution actually solve the problem I first set out to solve?” and “Am I implementing EdTech for the sake of my students or for the sake of technology itself?” Rather than adopting novel technologies in an attempt to stay at the forefront of the trends, you should always keep the long-term benefits of your classroom in mind.
Cost is another factor to keep in mind when evaluating the options. Most schools (especially public) already operate on a very tight budget and may not have the resources to implement expensive new hardware. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of affordable EdTech solutions that can be accessed via a browser on a school’s existing computers. Many of these solutions are also available on mobile devices, which is good news for teachers, given the widespread ownership of smartphones. According to Pew Research, more than 92% of all U.S. adults under 50 own a smartphone, signifying that there ‘s a good chance your students will have access to a smartphone in their home via their parents, older siblings and other relatives.
Step 4: Implementing a Solution
Is It Accessible?
Despite being digital natives, not all EdTech solutions are easily accessible for younger students. Navigating a site or application should always be intuitive and simple even for the littlest learners. Do your research carefully and first test out a solution to ensure it is age-appropriate in terms of usability.
Does It Take Time away from Teaching?
One of the greatest arguments for implementing technology in the classroom is that it can accelerate the learning process. However, if you are spending too much time setting up accounts and teaching your students how to use a new tool, it may be best to search for something more user-friendly. The classroom is your domain, therefore, you should never let technology take precedence over the time you ‘ve allotted for instruction.
Does It Do Something New?
Emerging technologies like VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) are enabling students to learn in ways they never could before. For example, with the use of VR headsets and 3D imaging data from NASA, students can enjoy traveling to Mars! Experiences such as this can make the classroom a more exciting and engaging place for learning!
Does It Improve Learning Outcomes?
The ultimate goal of this whole process is to improve the learning outcomes of your students. In some cases, over-exposure to technology can actually hinder performance rather than help it. For this reason, blended learning solutions have grown in popularity, helping institutions to provide high-quality, relevant education at a more affordable rate.
Choosing the right EdTech solution for your classroom is no easy task, to say the least. There is a myriad of options available to educators and not all of them are created equal. However, as an educator, you are uniquely equipped and empowered to decide what technology is right for your classroom. By using this 4-step method to choose your next EdTech purchase, you will be able to make wiser decisions and consequently improve the learning outcomes of your own students while working within your school ‘s budget.