Because of the role technology is playing in modern life, it is important that children are prepared for interaction with technology from a young age. Schools lag behind businesses and even home users considerably in the technology that they have available to use. However, many teachers are making the most of what they have, and are attempting to integrate it into the classroom.
Interactive Whiteboard Technology.
Interactive whiteboards have gained in popularity over the last five years. They can be used as a computer monitor, and they also have touchscreen capabilities. The teacher or student can use a stylus to write or draw on this board, making presentations more interactive.
One major downside to this is that pupils are no more likely to engage with the display than with a standard board, since their role is primarily to watch. It can also disrupt learning in cases where the technology is not functioning correctly, as it takes time to connect the board to the computer and ensure that everything is displayed as expected. The equipment can also be damaged, which will lead to considerable problems if the teacher has planned lessons to revolve around the technology, as they have been encouraged to do by government policies.
The Tablet Revolution.
Tablet technology is also making great strides in education, particularly with the recent introduction of “bring your own device” policies. Bring your own device (or BYOD) allows each pupil to use their own laptop or tablet PC in the classroom, enabling all of the work to be conducted and stored on the same device. All work is accessible both at school and at home.
The use of individual tablets in classrooms can be extremely beneficial to students; it is their own technology, so they are already familiar with it. This saves considerable time and also eliminates the inevitable waiting for the school’s own computers to boot up.
However, it does cause some problems for teachers, because pupils are more likely to become distracted and use the devices for playing games or tasks other than the work set. It will not be possible to confiscate the computers if they have become an integral part of education, because they will be necessary throughout the day. Discipline could therefore become tricky to maintain in this situation.
An interesting article on the use of tablet devices in the classroom and BYOD can be found here.
The Cost of Technology in the Classroom.
Integrating technology seamlessly into education requires a significant investment, and this is something that the majority of schools cannot afford at present. A single tablet PC, of any make, costs over £200, so providing one for every pupil would be far too costly. This has led to “bring your own” schemes being implemented in a number of schools, which considerably reduces the cost to the school.
By integrating technology in this manner, there will be additional demands placed on the network. This is likely to mean upgrading the servers and the wireless connectivity, which should be done at a time when it will cause least disruption to the education of the students. Over the summer holidays would be the ideal time to carry out major work such as this. Your school IT supplier should be able to advise on the changes that will be needed and any additional equipment required.
Is it Worth the Investment?
Is it worth bringing additional technology into the classroom and are there any tangible benefits to these changes? Students do not always enjoy technology-based lessons more, finding it extremely frustrating when there are problems. There may also be difficulties associated with the use of computer screens and interactive whiteboards in brightly lit classrooms, because they cannot always be seen, particularly from the back of the room. It should also be worth considering the impact that continuous use of computers will have on eyesight; it has been known for some time that televisions and computer monitors have a negative impact on vision. Businesses are now required to provide regular eye tests, so as a result of integrated technology, it may become necessary for schools to do the same.
What does the Future hold for the Classroom?
It is difficult to predict how technology is going to progress in the future and what will be introduced in schools. Tablet PCs look set to play an important role, though it is likely that the majority of schools will implement a “bring your own device” policy in order to reduce costs. It is possible that this indicates a move towards the paperless classroom, although this was predicted for businesses and has not yet occurred. Classrooms are unlikely to become completely paperless in the near future.
David has worked in the ICT sector for over ten years. During this time he has worked on various projects, from server installations to implemented BYOD technology. In his spare time, David writes blog entries for various technology sites on the internet.