Technology in the Classroom: Tools for Building Students’ Futures

From elementary school all the way up through colleges and universities, computers and other digital tools are increasingly playing a central role in classrooms. Like with any new or expanding technology, this comes with many potential benefits but also with risks and possible negative consequences.

Some believe that technology can help keep students interested and give them a more hands-on learning experience. Others worry that technology comes between students and teachers, makes learning impersonal, and even makes cheating easier. So which is it? Is educational technology a useful tool for students and teachers, or a danger? For students my age, technology in the classroom is not a futuristic news story. It is something we take for granted because we have grown up with it and could not imagine school without it. In my Spanish class, we used an online learning platform that included language practice with recordings of native Spanish speakers, and video or audio chat with fellow students.

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In middle school we used iPads in class, and most of our homework and group project work was shared using Google Docs and Google Classroom. This made it much easier to collaborate and allowed those who missed a day of school to quickly catch up. In high school, a program called The Geometer’s Sketchpad made complicated geometric ideas much easier to follow, and the more visual approach revealed interesting qualities of the diagrams or shapes we studied. Because of all these experiences (which are pretty universal among students nowadays), I think of interacting with technology as a pretty fundamental aspect of going to school—and as something that makes education a lot more convenient and accessible. It sounds like a cliche, but educational technology can also make learning more fun.

Every student has a subject that bores or frustrates them. Combining audiovisual and interactive elements can liven up those subjects and keep students more engaged. Another great thing about technology in school is that often it gives students something to actually do, so they are not just passively sitting in a chair listening. This keeps students paying attention and leads to more participation, especially when technology is used to facilitate collaboration. It is also important for students to feel comfortable with technology since it affects every aspect of modern life, including future careers.

Finally, educational technology can help personalize each student’s school experience, so they can learn at their own pace and in the style that works best for them. This is especially true for students with special needs such as ADHD, who can benefit from immediate feedback and more active learning. Naturally there are also obstacles to overcome. Some of the same devices and technologies that can help engage students in class could also distract them from learning. If classroom technology isolates students from each other, instead of encouraging collaboration and interaction, that obviously defeats the purpose since students need to be able to communicate and interact socially.

Technology that makes learning easier could also make cheating more convenient, thanks to instant sharing and access to huge amounts of information online. All of these possible problems, however, involve improper use of technology, instead of using it as intended. There is nothing about educational technology that makes it automatically hazardous. In the end, students will have to take responsibility for their work and behavior, just like before any of this technology was available. Those who do will maximize the benefits of educational technology. The bottom line is: technology already plays a big role in students’ lives, and technology will play a big role in their futures.

Therefore there is no way to prepare students for success in college, jobs, and life without including technology. Technology does not replace teachers, or magically make a boring curriculum interesting. Educators still have to care about students and guide them. Technology in schools is ultimately just a tool. Like any tool, how useful it is will depend on what we do with it.