Does Your Class Tech Use Empower Every Learner?

When are you better off using paper and pen? How can teachers thoughtfully use technology that promotes learning, development, and success for all students and avoid uses that don’t?

These questions matter to educators now more than ever. Education is changing and technology is a part of it. Last year, American schools spent a whopping $8.38 billion on educational technology according to a Hechinger report. (See some of the purchase trends here).

Spending this much is acceptable if school leaders know exactly which outcomes they’re looking for. Digital content that support personalized learning, for example, is on the rise, and districts are clear on what they expect from those materials.

Edtech can amplify what good teachers are already doing and provide critical support for learners with special needs in particular. But in states like Pennsylvania, studies have shown that tech is actually widening the achievement gap. Access to tech is not equitable; limited budgets and inadequate teacher training keep some kids from the technological solutions they need. With the increasing diversity of classrooms across the country, school leaders must ask deeper questions on the pros and cons of using tech for student learning and development.

It’s not enough just to use technology in the classroom – teachers need to carefully consider if it meets student needs and produces positive learning outcomes for all students.

Here are 3 tips on choosing whether or not to supplement your lesson with tech:

  1. Do hands on demonstrations with students whenever possible, opposed to viewing them solely on the screen. I mean, as good as Steve Spangler is, your own live experiments can be emotionally engaging science theater. Check out some Pinterest worthy ones here. 
  2. Do leverage tech tools that help students understand and talk about more complex subject matter, like science concepts. Low-cost adaptive digital curricula that teaches the same content at each student’s reading level are available. Also tech platforms, like iMovie, that facilitate recording can be great ways for students, especially English Language Learners, to verbalize their understanding and start sharing their voices in the classroom. 
  3. Do remember technology is not required in small group settings. If the goal is to get your students to discuss deeply on a topic, put the tablet away. Sometimes you can have better conversations face to face.

This post was written by the talented and overall awesome Esther Lee

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