Most educators in today’s world remember a time when access to technology was difficult to come by. For instance, my family didn’t have internet access until I was in junior high, and even then, those were the days of “dial-up”, where things took forever to load and where you couldn’t be on the phone and the internet at the same time. This, though, was just the beginning.
Today, students have access to advanced technology at their fingertips! Smartphones and social media have changed the way that we communicate in our day-to-day lives. Teachers and our students have the ability to be connected to people all over the world with the click of a button.
While Smartphone technology and other advancements have done much good for our world, one can’t but notice some of the drawbacks that come along with these changes, especially regarding usage in the classroom.
In recent years, teachers have had to come up with ways to curb “unauthorized” technology use in school. First, it is important to assert early on in the school year that while technology is valuable, it is to be used for learning purposes when in the classroom. It is also a good idea to set some ground rules for technology usage. For example, in years past, I have had students sign contracts agreeing to technology terms in class.
But, curbing or eliminating usage isn’t the only answer. Instead, there are ways to incorporate Smartphones and other technology into the classroom to enhance learning experiences.
Examples of Smartphone and other tech usages in the classroom
Mini-research lessons – Mini-lessons can be taught to both high school students and college students about reputable research, and this can be done by utilizing student cell phones. For instance, you may ask a student to conduct a Google or Safari search of a certain term, idea or event and have them chart the first sources that pop up. When I’ve conducted this exercise in class, we have then gone through student results to see which sources were reputable and why.
Computer Lab time – I’ve seen instances where internet access in a computer lab can lead to huge distractions, but with proper methods and planning, a lot of these instances can be eliminated or at least minimalized. For example, it is a good idea to have a planned lesson or activity in place during the time scheduled in the lab. In addition, when I schedule computer lab time, even for my college students, I assign a concrete activity or tangible outcome that must be due at the end of class, like for instance a PowerPoint presentation or a storyboard.
YouTube as learning supplements – There are so many great YouTube videos out there, and many educators have even started their own YouTube platforms to teach about poetry, mathematics, and even music lessons. Thus, YouTube videos can act as a supplement for classroom lessons. For instance, during a unit on Beat Poetry, I was able to locate a YouTube video where Allen Ginsberg reads his famous poem “Howl” out loud. This video acted as a wonderful tool to use in order to discuss the importance of rhythm, sound and other cadences of beat poetry.
Twitter for news and current events – While Twitter may seem to some as a silly pastime where people report on their every move, meal or thought, Twitter is the primary news source for many young people, as it is usually breaking there first. In November 2015, I first heard of the Bataclan attacks in Paris via Twitter. Shortly, thereafter, the news sites and programs followed coverage. I’ve used this example countless times with my students, and we’ve examined news on Twitter in conjunction with the news presented in other popular media outlets. Most students were able to see the value in traditional news outlets; however, some feel that they get a fuller picture from the unbiased and uncensored tweets that filter through the social media site instead.
Should schools adapt policy to accommodate the use of smart technology?
Most schools have tried to deal with the rising use of Smartphone technology by enacting bans on Smartphones, social media and other smart technology deemed a distraction. While it is true that there is a line that must be drawn, Smartphones and technological advancements are not going away. Our students live in a world where Smartphones are ubiquitous, so we must teach them how to use these devices as tools for learning. In his Atlantic article, Do Smartphones have a place in the classroom?, Paul Burnell explores the idea further, citing expert testimony and educational studies along the way. Burnell asserts that while there is “no simple answer”, there are instead two questions that one is left with: Should educators adapt their classrooms to the advances and realities of the modern world, or should the classroom remain a respite from technology and its distractions?
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Whatever your opinion may be on this subject, it is clear that we, as educators, can use these technologies to our advantage by creating real-life learning opportunities.
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