Information Age Teaching
Teaching, at every level, has evolved rapidly and drastically with the advent of the Information Age. The changes mandated by advanced technology has dramatically impacted everything from the structure of lesson plans to teach rubrics to classroom dynamics.
Access to information is more instant than ever (even if some of that information isn’t exactly reliable). Today’s teachers – and students – literally carry the knowledge of the ages around in their pockets. The real question is: how does the average teacher take what is in his or her pocket out and present it in a way that modern students will understand and embrace?
Gone are the days when students thrilled to see the TV and VCR (or projector if you’re old enough to remember that…) rolled in at the beginning of class. These days, screens do the vast majority of the support work in teaching. Every classroom has a permanent TV or smartboard (or both). There are no more videocassettes, film strips, or 8mm movies. All content is streamed online and presented in a way that a generation that has grown up with a screen in its hand can better interpret and understand.
How, then, does the average teacher who remembers all of these things, who has spent years – or even decades – teaching using very 20th-century methods, stay relevant in a rapidly-changing world? The schooling-instructional paradigm has shifted, and modern teachers must be willing to move with and adapt to the times.
Utilizing Online Resources
Even in 2018, some teachers resist the changes that are happening around them. They look at technology as a threat to their ability to get through to their students. The simple fact of the matter is that technology has been running interference in education for decades already. In the 1980s it was walkmans and handheld video games. In the 1990s we dealt with the constant chirrup of mobile pagers. In the early 2000s, it was multiple flavors of iPods. Today, it’s all about smartphones.
The critical difference between today and the days of the Sony Walkman and alpha pagers is in the ability of educators to use conventional technology to their own and their students’ benefits. There was no manageable way to integrate a pager into the curriculum, but there are myriad ways to incorporate modern mobile devices and Internet. What it takes is a will and desire to learn what is out there and how to use it effectively. Here are some ideas to help spur on a little creative thought:
Free Online Tools and Applications
There isn’t a single area of instruction that cannot be enhanced by integrating technology. It may come as a surprise not only how many applications and online resources there are out there, but how many of those resources are free, at least to try. Here are just a few of the types of resources teachers can access free of charge:
- Text to speech tools
- Infographic generators
- Slide presentation generators
- Test and quiz grading apps
- Free stock images
- Free and royalty-free music, video, and other multimedia
- Dedicated texting apps for student-teacher-parent communication
- Document scanning tools (for quick grammar and spelling evaluation)
- Free quiz generators
- Reliable online academic writing help
- Free digital storytelling apps
The list just goes on from there.
Finding Free Classroom Tech
The link provided above is just one of a nearly endless list of resources that can be discovered with a simple Google search. Finding the best possible apps for a specific classroom, curriculum, or grade level will take some digging, but the effort is well worth the returns.
It is worth noting, also, that most school districts already have storehouses of free apps that can be accessed through the appropriate school network(s), eliminating some of the guesswork for the teacher and allowing educators access to resources already approved for use in district classrooms.
Once the use of these types of supports gains a foothold, even more, powerful premium applications exist to add an even more profound dimension to the instructional and learning dynamic. Of course, whenever someone uses the term “premium,” it equates in most people’s minds (and especially teachers’) with “costly.”
The more integrated technology becomes in the modern classroom, the higher the need for up-to-date technological supports grows as well. Most school administrators understand this and are open to gaining feedback from teachers and support staff on how to improve the educational experience for everyone.
Some of the most valuable techs out there is that which keeps students, teachers, and parents on the same line of communication. There are numerous smartphone and desktop apps that keep students and parents involved in the learning process by organizing:
- Test and quiz dates
- Assignment due dates
- Classroom and schoolwide events
- Report card and progress report reminders
- Digital signatures for quizzes, tests, notes home, and report cards
Using Online Tools Effectively
It is essential to take the time to examine and understand any online tools that get integrated into an existing curriculum. Never choose tools and apps based on product descriptions, pretty user interfaces, or any other aesthetic reason. Sometimes, the best-looking apps have the fewest features and options than those with simpler, more straightforward designs. This isn’t uniformly true, but it makes a point: flash does not equal quality.
The way teachers choose and integrate online tools will have a direct effect on the students’ abilities to learn and retain information. Online tools should create points of commonality between students and teachers. Choosing and implementing means that everyone can readily use and understand is vital to the process.
Finally, online tools should never, under any circumstance replace traditional sound instruction. Technology solutions should be used only to enhance the learning experience, not to reinvent it.