Editors Note: This is the first in a series

Over the past decade, the thoughtful integration of educational technology (EdTech) in the classroom has significantly transformed the way we teach and learn. Digital tools, software, hardware and platforms have enabled educators to personalize learning experiences for individual students and whole classrooms. Capturing student interests and unique skills in the learning experience improves student outcomes and increases student engagement.

EdTech is an important component of the education landscape and will continue to grow and evolve alongside our classrooms, as we find new ways to engage learners and unburden teacher workflows so they can focus on students.

Students and EdTech

According to a recent study out of the University of Chicago, students are more engaged and motivated when learning with EdTech. This comes as no surprise, as digital tools often provide a more dynamic and interactive learning experience, similar to how students navigate, interact with and consume information in their daily lives. Utilizing mediums that are already meaningful to students helps them connect to the content they are learning as well as providing opportunities for them to showcase their skills and abilities, resulting in a more engaged learner.

EdTech reveals new worlds to students in exciting ways. Multimedia resources allow students to visualize abstract concepts and understand the interactions that drive them. Simulations allow students to explore cause and effect and enhance their understanding and connect concepts. This provides an immersive learning experience, which directly improves retention and recall, leading to better student outcomes.

EdTech also helps build inclusive learning environments where all learners can engage with learning. Assistive technologies such as screen readers, speech recognition, voice-to-text and iconography software give all students a voice in the classroom. EdTech can lower barriers by allowing students to access customized supports that allow them to interact with the learning in way that works for them.

Despite the many benefits of EdTech, there are concerns about its impact on student learning. Critics argue that excessive screen time can lead to a lack of focus and attention, which can negatively affect student performance. In addition, some educators worry that the use of EdTech could lead to a decline in social skills and human interaction.

However, recent research suggests that school time should not be considered ‘screen time.’ According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the impact of EdTech on student performance is largely dependent on how it is used and for what purpose. When used in a thoughtful and targeted way, EdTech enhances teaching and empowers learning by providing access and opportunities students might not otherwise experience. This connects students both to the learning itself and to their futures.[KY1]

Let’s not forget about teachers

While teaching with EdTech is not without a learning curve, it has the potential to unburden teacher workflows by streamlining administrative tasks, enhancing student engagement, and creating inclusive learning environments. EdTech should never been one more thing on a teacher’s plate, but rather a complement to the work they are already doing.

EdTech can help teachers with:

  1. Decreasing their prep time: Teachers have enough on their plate. They’re looking for tools that will help them save valuable time, whether for better work-life balance, to decrease teacher burnout, or to make way for more meaningful learning opportunities. EdTech tools can assist teachers in automating administrative tasks such as grading, attendance tracking, and lesson planning. EdTech tools like Lumio, allow teachers to enhance lessons that already exist, quickly grab resources on the fly, and strengthen student outcomes by getting students engaged. This frees up time for teachers to focus on other, more important aspects of teaching.
  2. Enabling spontaneous teaching moments: Edtech can help teachers change gears and take advantage of spontaneous teaching moments. For example, if a student is having trouble visualizing a process or equation, teachers can quickly look up digital simulations using programs like PhET or Desmos. Brainstorming templates let all students share their ideas efficiently and anonymously, promoting classroom discussion.
  3. Engaging students: Teaching is so much easier when students are excited to learn. Teachers can use educational games and simulations to help students visualize complex concepts and engage in hands-on learning. Virtual field trips and tours can also be used to enhance student engagement and broaden their understanding of different cultures and environments.
  4. Providing personalized learning: Edtech can also be used to provide personalized learning experiences that give students voice and choice allow students control of the pace and place of their learning by supporting both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences.

EdTech has positively transformed our classrooms. As it continues to evolve, so will the ways we teach and learn. EdTech will continue to allow education to be individualized and connected to the world our students live in without burdening our teachers. Educators can further personalize learning experiences, create collaborative and immersive learning experiences, and make learning fun with the help of EdTech tools. Through careful consideration and leading with a pedagogy-first mentality, EdTech can help to decrease teacher workloads and increase student engagement.

About the author

Kris Astle is an Education Strategist at SMART Technologies & EdShift Podcast Host. She is an experienced educator with a passion for elevating student voice. Kris has a global understanding of trends, research-based best practices, educational needs, and the facilitation of change in the education landscape. Kris started her career in the classroom, teaching first in Switzerland and then in the US. She has launched both IB and ESL programs in schools she has worked in. She is passionate about meeting both students and teachers where they are and helping them use technology to follow their passions.