Making technology work in the Modern Classroom

By Gill Leahy, Senior International Education Consultant, Promethean

During Bett 2016 Promethean looked at the concept of the ‘Modern Classroom’ and we explored how the function of the classroom is changing. No longer used for purely instructional lessons from a teacher to students, modern classrooms are becoming collaborative learning spaces, with learning extending beyond the traditional four walls. 

For this change to take place, technology has played a major role in facilitating more interactive learning environments. On the whole we’ve seen classroom technology change over the past 20 years, it’s moved on from a single desktop computer in the corner of a classroom, to a selection of high-tech teaching aids. For a truly modern classroom it’s not just about having access to technology but how it’s being used that is core to its effectiveness. So why is technology so important in the modern classroom?

First of all students expect it. The current and future generation of digital natives are growing up with smartphones and tablet computers being a normal part of their day-to-day lives, and this extends to the classroom. What’s more, various studies have taken place which show that technology in the classroom is a key motivator for students learning, so it’s actually a powerful tool for improving student engagement and in the long-term, student grades. 

Secondly, technology delivers a fast, easy route to learning. That is not to say it replaces the role of the teacher, but it enhances lessons through interactivity, students having instant access to the Internet and teachers having an instant snapshot of how well the class is grasping a topic through real-time assessment. 

Schools will need to commit to a recruitment and development policy, which emphasises digital pedagogy skills among teachers

Finally, using technology in the classroom is preparing students for the world of work. Students will be in contact with technology throughout their lives, from further and higher education through to employment. So it’s important that they are learning core ICT skills at school. 

While having access to a range of education technology can be important, ultimately it is how it is being used which validates its effectiveness. In order for edtech to enrich the modern classroom it must fit with the school’s pedagogy and suit the teaching styles of the teachers. For example, if a school operates a more collaborative teaching style then front-of-class technology such as Interactive Flat Panel Displays (IFPDs) combined with tablet devices work well to encourage collaborative learning in a whole-class, group or individual setting. This needn’t mean a large initial investment in technology is needed; many schools operate an effective BYOD system for tablets, which then encourages learning both in the classroom and beyond.

Something that shouldn’t be overlooked when implementing technology is the need for any supporting training – digital literacy applies to both teachers and students. Schools will need to commit to a recruitment and development policy, which emphasises digital pedagogy skills among teachers. Essentially if a school would like to benefit from technology in the classroom, teachers need to be trained on how to use ICT in their classroom. In terms of students, as aforementioned, the current generation are familiar with a range of technologies, however it’s still important that they are able to learn how to use technology in a way, which enables learning, and delivers skills for employment and further study. 

Today’s classroom technology installations cannot be effective if schools do not fully understand how they intend to use equipment for pedagogical gain. If schools begin to look at reimagining the learning space and understanding the teaching style most likely to be used in that space, and how students will be benefiting from the technology, everyone will better understand the true role of classroom technology and the benefits it can bring.