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Teaching digital natives: How technology is changing the classroom

Children with computersToday’s youth are often referred to as digital natives because of their familiarity with modern technology at such a young age. Look around almost any public place and you will see children handling cell phones, tablets, iPads, etc. While technology may be helpful when trying to keep young children occupied at the grocery store, its usefulness extends beyond entertainment.

Digital devices have been integrated into classrooms throughout the nation. As more advanced equipment becomes available, parents, teachers, and students are finding new ways to utilize technology in an educational setting. The endless supply of information available online and the continuous innovations occurring in the tech sphere, such as IoT and augmented reality devices, have opened doors to improve and enhance the education process. The integration of technology and learning is changing the face of the classroom and having a significant impact on how students learn. The following sections outline a few of the changes technology is spurring in the educational realm.

Rise in tech spending 

Parents of students are spending increasing amounts on back to school (BTS) shopping and a significant portion of these expenditures are being allocated to technology and electronics. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, Americans plan to spend $75.8 billion on back-to-school shopping this year. This number amounts to $7.8 billion dollars more than was spent in 2015. The survey predicts that a little over half of American families will buy electronics such as computers or calculators, accounting for $8.27 billion of BTS spending in 2016.

Although the number of families spending money on electronics is just a little over 50%, those families generally spend more on technology than they spend on clothes. The gadgets and applications students use have long surpassed the graphing calculator and now encompass everything from iPads to Twitter. While some tools are free, cell phones, computers, tablets, and other devices are becoming staples in the traditional learning environment and can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. According to the Consumer Technology Association’s “Role of Consumer in Back-to-School Shopping Survey,” the amount of BTS tech products and accessories purchases are expected to reach $18.5 billion dollars this year. Such purchases extend beyond technology and to the numerous applications and accessories associated with each device. Essentially, technology and education have become nearly inseparable in most learning environments, a relationship that causes parents and school districts to be loyal tech consumers now and in the future.

Digital natives change the classroom

The classroom experience is being remolded by the new devices and tools available to students. Remote learning and collaboration, online assignments and exams, and a change in the student-teacher relationship are only a few of shifts occurring in the educational sphere. There are a variety of opinions regarding the benefit of digital tools in the classroom and most objections center around technology as a distraction to students. While such concerns are valid, they generally stem from insufficient adjustments to teaching strategies and a lack of student engagement with the material.

“Flipped classrooms” are one example of how technology is positively changing the way students receive an education. This style of learning inverts traditional teaching methods and allows students to view lectures at home while communicating with their instructors and peers online. Instead of doing homework at home, students listen to lectures at home and do their work integrating the material at school with a teacher available to assist.” Remote capabilities facilitate a more interactive class-time environment and help teachers to more actively engage with students throughout the critical portion of the learning process.

Technology developments, such as those that support flipped classrooms, have enabled children across the world to have access to learning materials and educational guidance via a virtual teaching environment. For example, Professor Sugata Mitra has made significant advancements in his effort to school children throughout India and the UK. Mitra was born in Calcutta, India and currently works as a Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. Mitra organized a way for retired professionals in the UK to mentor groups of children in India via Skype, allowing several children to participate at once in one of the self-learning environments Mitra designed. Mitra’s Ted Talk “Build a School in the Cloud” was featured on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. During this feature, Mitra talked about his “Hole in the Wall” experiment that proved, when left with computer kiosks, children in the rural slums of India could teach themselves about complex topics without the assistance of a teacher.

Flipped classrooms are one of the more drastic changes that have occurred as a result of technology in schools, but there are other transitions that have already become the norm across the nation. Such shifts include the use of eBooks instead of print text books, remote access to class materials online, immediate virtual collaboration and information sharing, online classes, and more. Essentially, the world in which students are required to successfully operate is changing to be more virtual, mobile, and collaborative, and today’s technology allows students to translate this lifestyle into their curriculum for better preparation in the future.

Like the working world, the learning process has extended beyond the classroom and into the homes, cars, and sports events of families across the nation. Now, students have the capability to work anywhere they would like. While the learning tools available today may require a significant investment in technology by school districts and parents, such technology has the potential to cater to a wider range of learning styles and make education more readily accessible to students across the globe.

Technology is developing at a rapid pace and is changing the way individuals consume products and absorb information. Aldridge provides managed IT services to a number of clients in the education field and understands the impact proper technology and support can have on one’s success. Contact a firm representative today to find out more about how Aldridge can help your business create an environment conducive to development and growth.

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