Technology is, no doubt, the most disruptive factor today in all industries, including business, manufacturing and entertainment. Education has not been unaffected by technology’s influence and has been changing dramatically over the last few years. Educators and students alike are increasingly using technology within the classroom environment, from the ever-present interactive white board, to the laptop and tablet.
As consumers we are specific about our technology needs, driven by peers, the media and our own requirements. As a result, there is an influx of devices into schools – the smartphone, tablet and laptop – in an effort to bring the same functionality we enjoy at home, into the classroom.
In a recent research report from Ofcom, it was found that 82% of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 own a smartphone, while 72% of the same age group own a tablet. The appetite for these types of technology in the learning environment is reinforced by 2013 research conducted by BESA, the trade association for education suppliers, that forecast there will be an approximate 200% increase in tablets in classrooms by the end of 2020.
Barriers to increased uptake of technology
At the moment there are however, several barriers that are hindering both the use and take up of technology in the classroom. The main barriers are budget and funding, while educating the educators on the ways in which technology can be used in the classroom and getting them familiar with its application is another great challenge that the industry faces. With the devolving of autonomy to schools through the Academy program, there is less guidance available than previously when educators wish to upgrade and implement technology into a campus. Additional BESA research discovered that training and support for teachers is considered one of the most significant barriers for tablet adoption in the classroom by 47% of secondary schools surveyed.
The importance of connectivity
Ideally what is needed for better participation and engagement in the classroom is technology that is supported and enabled via connectivity, such as Wi-Fi. Such networks must be reliable, flexible, fit for purpose and scalable with coverage throughout the entire campus, at minimum an enterprise-grade solution.
However, the lack of suitable Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity in schools are significant obstacles to the implementation of new technology. In the same BESA study, it was found that only 56% of schools indicated they had the desired level of connectivity, while only 40% said they had their ideal level of Wi-Fi on campus. The lack of suitable Wi-Fi was identified by 53% of secondary schools as being a major hindrance to tablet adoption.
Beyond the implications that the lack of Wi-Fi has on the use of tablets, good connectivity is required for a host of other activities in the classroom, including research, collaboration as well as online exercises.
The benefits of using technology in the classroom
Whether technology is being used at primary or secondary school level, or beyond at further or higher education establishments, its use can yields tremendous benefits, to both teachers and students, with research suggesting students can gain a four month advantage when engaged with technology at school. For teachers, the use of education technology to assist in developing and delivering lessons saves time and can help in ensuring access to the latest content.
In addition to giving access to interactive learning sessions, technology can be used to promote collaboration and engagement, skills that are required to enter the modern work environment. All subjects reap the advantages of technology usage, whether through maths modelling, supporting better understanding of grammar in English lessons or via simulation and virtualised problem solving in humanities.
The classroom of the future
Technology in the classroom is no longer such a hotly debated topic. Its benefits are well recognised for both students and teachers, and it is the continued adoption of different devices and hardware, as well as connectivity capabilities that will ultimately shape how children are educated in the classroom of the future.