The transition of teachers away from the role of “content-deliverer” and into that of “learning-facilitator” is among the most dramatic paradigm shifts in American K-12 education in recent years. Technology has enhanced the ability of teachers to guide students through the process of knowledge-building in numerous ways, and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) acknowledges this in its current definition of educational technology:
Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 1).
The ideal 21st Century Classroom is a student-focused learning environment in which technology is seamlessly incorporated into the daily lives of all stakeholders. Teachers not only utilize technology to efficiently measure and record student progress through formative and summative assessment, they also use it to build educational ecosystems in which students explore aspects of the world not easily experienced in physical classrooms. Students wield technology to demonstrate mastery in novel and creative ways and to communicate and collaborate with peers more often and with greater efficiency than through conventional approaches. Finally, parents and guardians embrace technology as a means to more actively monitor their children’s progress through clearly articulated educational standards and benchmarks.
In order for this vision to be realized and to justify the time, effort and financial investment that such technology-enabled public classrooms require, additional commitment from all stakeholders is needed:
Technology’s ability to motivate and engage students in K-12 classrooms is well documented (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 25). However, technology must be integrated thoughtfully and with purpose to maximize its impact on learning. By adopting pedagogically sound approaches such as the Technology Integration Planning (TIP) Model (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 52), teachers can ensure that the appropriate technology is matched to the desired learning outcome, maximizing its efficacy and justifying its adoption. By leveraging the ability of technology to provide real-time formative data, teachers can use it to modify class instruction and to create individualized learning plans for students. Simulations, webquests, virtual field trips and virtual experiments allow teachers to create activities for students in which they build their own knowledge base, often by exploring real-world scenarios. Wikis, online forums, blogs, Google Docs and a myriad of other online platforms can be utilized by teachers to encourage collaboration and co-learning, as well to make the revision process less time-consuming for students (Resta & Laferriere, 2007).
Students must embrace technology’s ability to take them “outside” of the physical classroom to explore more authentic learning environments. They should embrace the challenge of solving real-world problems, drawing their own conclusions about the natural world via simulations and virtual experiments, and demonstrating their knowledge through the creation of multimedia projects. In short, students must embrace the opportunity to control their own learning (NETP Executive Summary, 2010).
Parents and guardians must recognize the increasingly important role technology is playing in education and make every effort to ensure that their children have access to a computer and the Internet at home, if possible. Families facing financial hardship should seek out when and where free computers/Internet access are available to students (at school, local libraries, etc.), and make every effort to allow their children ample time to complete computer-based activities at these locations. Parents facing financial hardship should contact their school’s administration and their children’s teachers; many schools have programs in place to provide hardware and technical assistance.
Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Resta, P., & Laferrière, T. (2007). Technology in support of collaborative learning. Educational Psychology Review, 19(1), 65-83. doi:10.1007/s10648-007-9042-7
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.
U.S. Department of Education. (2010) National Education Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary. Retrieved from http://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/netp2010.pdf#page=11