Over the past decade, educators, administrators and education experts have been championing technology as the way to bring America’s schools to the forefront in educating the world’s youth.
Late last year, the Obama Administration announced its Digital Promise initiative, where they would allocate millions of dollars toward putting technology into low-income classrooms. President Obama firmly believes that this is the way to close the ever-increasing gap between the United States and other industrialized countries that lead the world in education.
Educators are increasingly making interactive technologies, such as iPads, e-readers, and computers vital tools in today’s classroom. However, even the most expensive, highest-end technology is no replacement for substantial content and engaging teaching.
Teachers need to focus on solidifying their curriculum with strong content before bringing technology into the classroom. Otherwise they run the risk of having the technology overshadow the subject that needs to be taught.
One recent trend that brings technology into education has been that of the flipped classroom.
For the uninitiated, a flipped classroom is where classroom time is used to have students work on assignments and have students participate in online lectures at home. This eliminates the practice of having students take their assignments home for homework, and allows teachers help with assignments.
However, the danger with the flipped classroom is that a teacher can become so preoccupied with creating lecture videos that their classroom assignments can suffer, becoming a case where classroom technology overshadows the actual course content.
To remedy this, Catlin Tucker, author of Blended Learning for Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create a Student-Centered Classroom, explained in a blog post that teachers must go beyond videos in creating a flipped classroom.
In describing how a good flipped classroom should work, Tucker asked the questions, “If we move lecture or the transfer of knowledge online to create time and space in the physical classroom, how are we using that time to improve learning for students? … How are we maximizing the potential of the group when students are together to design collaborative, creative, student-centered activities and assignments?”
Teachers looking to use technology in their classrooms should be asking similar questions. There are so many amazing tools—TED Ed, Edmodo, Big Think, iBooks Author to name a few—a teacher can use to bring technology into the classroom, but if that teacher lacks content, the technology means nothing.
Before a teacher seeks out technology, they should focus on their content by not using it for the first few years, then begin to implement it as a supplement to the already strong curriculum.
Tucker provides the following examples of classroom activities that can strengthen the learning process:
• labs, experiments, and fieldwork
• creative writing assignments
• collaborative research projects
• acting, dramatic readings, tableaus
• project based learning
• art work
• model construction
Each of these activities, while not requiring technology, can use technology to supplement the learning process. By using technology as a supplement a teacher can fully explore all possibilities in engaging students in the classroom by creating a strong learning environment.
Daniel Duerden is a writer and content editor for 360 Education Solutions