How Technology is Revolutionizing the ‘Classroom’

As rapidly as new technologies are continuing to emerge in general commerce, a similar momentum is occurring in school classrooms across the country.

Desktop computers, laptops, tablets and other technologies have been finding themselves in the hands of school-aged children for decades.

Now, however, technology is making it possible to redefine just what is a “classroom” – and how each student can best benefit from it.


Creating Portals to a Larger World

In the past, it might have seemed like computers and other pieces of technology were simply being “added into” the mix of a school’s existing curriculum. Desktop computer and laptops were just replacing pencils and paper, for example, but technology wasn’t making much more of an impact in the classroom.

David Dwyer, Director of Education Technology at Apple, echoed this same impression in 1998, in an article in Technology & Learning magazine:

“With the many hundreds of millions of dollars federal and state agencies are flowing into technology for schools, the cry for more research and evaluation will get very loud,” said Dwyer. “My fear is that high stakes evaluation will focus on the technology and not on what people are trying to do with it or how learning and instruction change through the use of technology — these are the far more interesting and important questions.”

Today, nearly 20 years later, the education community has indeed focused upon the “far more interesting and important questions” that Dwyer spoke of.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed this issue when speaking to the ASU+GSV Summit just last year: “Technology makes it possible for us to create a different dynamic between a teacher and a classroom full of students. It can open up limitless new ways to engage kids, support teachers, and bring parents into the learning process.”

“We need tools designed to help students discover who they are and what they care about, and tools that create portals to a larger world that, in the past, would have remained out of reach for far too many students,” continued Duncan.

At the same Summit, Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education, said: “The demand for high-quality educational apps is increasing as communities become more connected, devices become more affordable, and teachers and parents are looking for new ways to use technology to engage students. Yet, many existing solutions don’t address the most urgent needs in education. Opportunities abound for software designers and developers to create impactful tools for teachers, school leaders, students, and their families.”

So, educators are not content with just buying new technologies, throwing them into the classroom, and hoping for the best. Leaders in the educational system expect more. In fact, the Department of Education provides extensive information and guidance on how all parties involved can work together cooperatively in order to better marry technology to students.


Change in the Classroom

Here’s just a sampling of how technology is changing today’s classroom:

Virtual/Online Learning

These learning resources vary from occasional, supplemental instruction to full-time instruction. A student may enroll for a summer-school program or a credit-recovery program. They can even do a dual enrollment. Remediation-level classes to Honors-level classes are also available.

Full-time Online Schools

Students enrolled at an online school do not visit a physical school building. They’re able to “attend” year-round, receive credits, and eventually get a diploma — all via the online experience. Some schools even provide a computer for use at home as well as other provisions to offset expenses incurred (such as Internet costs) while enrolled.

Blended Learning

This type of resource blends the traditional face-to-face methods of education with online learning methods. It enables students to work before or after school. Teachers can also make better use of their time. The cost of classroom materials can even decrease in this scenario. All of these benefits add up to improve productivity. Students and educators in rural settings have found this method particularly advantageous.

Open Educational Resources

These resources aid teaching, learning and research, but are freely available online. The intention is that these resources still meet higher-quality standards and are able to be accessed by students that may have a disability:

  • Podcasts
  • Digital libraries
  • Digital textbooks
  • Games


Digital Resources

A variety of digital resources are available to support education, including:

  • Electronic grade books
  • Digital portfolios
  • Learning games
  • Videos
  • Lessons
  • Teacher and student-performance feedback in real-time


Impact on Students and Costs

Among the key findings of a 2009 report published by the Department of Education was the discovery that “students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.” The report also mentioned:

  • Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.
  • The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types.

Benefits have not been limited to only students, though. The Walled Lake Consolidated School District in Michigan utilized an online summer credit recovery program. Among its successes was a reduction in the district’s costs per student by 57%. Walled Lake later expanded the program to include online learning in conjunction with the regular school year. They estimate that the two online courses offered saved them $517 per student.

This isn’t to say that technology in the classroom is perfect. There is room for improvement, finds the 2009 report mentioned earlier.

  • When used by itself, online learning appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction, but not more so.
  • Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection.

So, while technology in the classroom has come a long way, it still has a ways to go. This is especially true as times continue to change and new challenges present themselves. But technology will continue to change and strive to match those challenges.


Photo credit: Sandramardene /

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