The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the rapid implementation of technology into classrooms across America, but emerging technologies will remain a staple of learning environments even after the pandemic passes. Today's children are simply too connected, and the potential benefits of tech integration in elementary education are too great for teachers to omit technology from their curricula. Instead, current and aspiring teachers should embrace technology as a tool that can accommodate various learning styles while also increasing student engagement.
A Closer Look at Tech Integration in the Classroom
EdTech is a billion-dollar industry, but there is much to consider for teachers seeking to incorporate emerging technologies into their curriculum. For example, some experts remain concerned about the effects of too much screen time on students. In contrast, others are excited by the ways technology can create a more inclusive, dynamic learning environment. Teachers must carefully research these topics to fully understand the inherent challenges, as well as the benefits, associated with tech integration.
Finding the right balance is essential to realizing the full range of positive outcomes of integrating technology into your curriculum. According to Joe Marquez, a K-12 Education Strategist and certified Google Innovator, "it simply isn't wise to incorporate technology with bad instructional habits: A screen should never take the place of a teacher or be used to babysit students." When technology is deployed within the framework of a carefully constructed lesson plan, however, it can lead to the following benefits:
- Improved student engagement
- Increased access for all students to learning opportunities
- Improved trust and stronger relationships between parents, teachers and students
The implementation of technology in the classroom is not without its challenges. Many of these obstacles took center stage as schools attempted to deal with the fallout from the recent pandemic. The sudden and unexpected shift to virtual learning left both teachers and students wholly unprepared for a school year spent on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. A recent G-Stic blog stated that the most common technological challenges during COVID-19 were as follows:
- Lack of online learning support for students
- Insufficient tech-based pedagogical expertise on the part of teachers
- Lack of internet access or personal devices for students
How to Best Equip Teachers for Integrating Technology
Ensuring that teachers have adequate professional development opportunities is key to the successful implementation of technology. Utilizing emerging technologies in the classroom can be challenging, so teachers will need to research best practices or collaborate and converse with more experienced colleagues. An informative article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development titled "Smart Classroom-Tech Integration" offers the following suggestions:
- Administrators can encourage teachers to use apps and tools that allow students to engage each other.
- Teach students to reflect on screen usage so that their minds remain on academics.
- Create video tutorials to help students understand how to use various types of software.
- Utilize technology students also use in daily life, which helps the skills transfer more substantially.
3 Ways Tech Integration Can Increase Student Engagement
There are many exciting new platforms that teachers can utilize to incorporate tech into their classrooms. A recent Built In article on EdTech in elementary schools highlights some dynamics options that are sure to increase student engagement in any learning environment.
This innovative program fuses video, music and language lessons to help students improve their vocabulary using hip-hop songs. There are also options for science and math instruction.
Enuma gamifies mathematics instruction, so students can earn "cyber stars" for mastering core concepts. There are entry points for students of all skill levels, including exceptional learners.
The longtime textbook publishers are out to make a splash in the EdTech industry with their new digital literacy program. Students can send digital versions of themselves to an online classroom that automatically adjusts to their learning needs.
With technology expected to play an essential role in the future of the American education system, tech-savvy educators will be in high demand. Teachers who want to improve their instructional expertise would be wise to consider the online Master of Education, Curriculum & Instruction – Concentration in Elementary Education program at the University of Louisiana Monroe.
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