The majority of students entering the classroom today have been using devices such as smart phones and tablets since they were babies. Technology is a vital tool in keeping these young minds engaged. It has the ability to sustain a student’s love of learning, and ensures they are equipped with the skills needed to be competitive in the workplace after they finish their education.
At John Rex Charter Elementary School in downtown OKC, technology is viewed as an essential tool in the development of a child’s education. “I view the use of technology as one of many instructional tools that we may utilize. Students can be a consumer of information and/or a producer of information with the assistance of technology in the classroom – there is a role for both approaches at John Rex,” says head of school Dr. Joe Pierce. “More importantly, technology serves as a fantastic tool for us to personalize our curriculum and engage students at a deeper level.”
At Classen School of Advanced Studies, desktop computers with dual monitors have been the norm for years, according to the school’s Career and Technology Education Instructor Cassie Petty. “I would love to go to laptop computers and create an atmosphere of alternative seating,” she adds. “Studies have shown that alternative seating, along with portable technology, opens up a more collaborative environment. The days of sitting at a desk tethered to a wall with cables are numbered.”
Petty admits that technology can be a wonderful tool in the classroom but also a huge distraction, as most kids carry gadgets of some variety with them at all times. However, technology is advancing at breakneck speed, opening a whole new world for students regardless of their socio-economic background; it can be a great equalizer for disadvantaged children.
Petty agrees it should be available to all, adding, “It would be in the students’ best interests for education to keep up with the times and create students that will be ready to enter the workforce with the skills needed to be productive.”
For some schools, not much has changed in the way children are taught – which may be a funding issue or just a matter of choice.
“Using textbooks that are five to 10 years old is not helping our students; we need to invest in technology that can be upgraded and won’t create a 30-pound backpack.”
– Cassie Petty
At Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM), Acting VP for Academic Services Brent Richards said that not a lot has changed in the way technology is used at the school since the mid-’90s. “Most of our courses are still taught the old-fashioned way; most professors teach their classes with just a few markers and a whiteboard, and the students study from traditional textbooks.”
Richards added that new technologies such as distance learning and digital textbooks have been “explored,” but at present these tech tools are a hope for the future. For now, all OSSM classrooms are at least equipped with SMART boards and digital projectors.
Petty admitted that it’s hard to fund the cost of bringing the ever-evolving technological world to the classroom, but sees it as a worthy investment.
“Using textbooks that are five to 10 years old is not helping our students; we need to invest in technology that can be upgraded and won’t create a 30-pound backpack,” she adds.
There is a thin line between technology serving as a distraction and a necessary tool – a line many schools grapple with each day. Yet this isn’t a new issue; it wasn’t that long ago teachers were debating whether or not calculators should be allowed in class.
Technology in the classroom is not without its pros or cons, but ultimately it ensures our children are prepared for the rapidly evolving digital age – for better or worse.