As far back as 2004, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE, outlined technology standards to help support educators in the classroom in the rapidly evolving Internet-based world. Among other things, the standards called for technology empowerment of teachers in order to reach a tech-hungry student population and society at large. Nearly a decade later, these reasonable standards set forth by NCATE are more necessary than ever in K-12 classrooms.
There are so many ways that academics are enhanced by technology that simply did not exist ten years ago. Today, students can benefit from online learning modules if a major illness or suspension keeps them at home. For students who are struggling under the academic and social pressures of traditional schooling, online learning provides an alternative to stay on track from the comforts of home. Online learning is just a brushstroke on the contemporary portrait of learning technology. Within classrooms, teachers can encourage students to work individually on computer or mobile devices, freeing up some time to work in-person with those who might need the extra attention.
Teachers can also communicate more effectively with parents and students regarding upcoming assignments, supplementary lesson plans and areas where students could benefit from extra practice. With browser-based technology, and cloud-based options, teachers can provide easy access to information and parents and students can log in at their convenience.
Technology is transforming the teaching process into one that is more interactive as well. Instead of waiting to see how much a student knows at the end of a term, progress can be measured in real-time - and adjustments can be made. Teaching is becoming less instructor-centric and more of a communal process.
Most of the so-called "disadvantages" of technology in K-12 classrooms cannot be avoided, even if every instructor in every school swore off computers, mobile devices and all other forward-thinking educational platforms. Whether teachers use technology in lesson plans or not, it exists outside classroom walls and therefore influences the way children learn. Perhaps the biggest downside when it comes to rapid technology change is that children now expect instant answers. Screen culture has made it so finding the solution to problems takes only a few seconds (with the help of a search engine) and so any long version of finding an answer is viewed negatively.
The ever-present educator mantra of "show your work" is devalued as K-12 students look only at the practical side of obtaining knowledge and care little for the process involved in finding their own answers in their own ways. This instant knowledge gratification impacts educators who must now teach the material at hand but also impart value for learning. Finding the answers used to be part of the academic challenge for students but now that search process has been significantly shortened. For educators to truly give students the tools to succeed, they must impart a passion for the pursuit of knowledge and break some of contemporary students' reliance on technology to find the answers.
Love it or hate it, today's teachers must embrace technology as a way of life in their classrooms. Resistance is futile at this point so educators must find a balance between the flash of technology and its practical benefits in the learning process.
How do you think technology will change the role of teachers in coming years?
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.