Besides walking 20 miles uphill both ways in six feet of snow to school, the older generation may remember the scent of freshly pounded chalkboard erasers and rummaging through pages upon pages of musty books in the library to find the perfect bit of research to add to a report.

Walk a post-millennial (Homelander?) through a school day in your shoes and you’ll undoubtedly receive a blank stare accompanied by a “that’s cool, want to see the app our teacher had us download today?”

The times, they are a-changin’. (And if you want another blank stare, bring up Bob Dylan.)

What Does A Smarter Classroom Look Like?

From the inner city to suburbs and even rural areas, more than $10 billion has been invested over the past few years in making classrooms smarter.

Students from kindergarten through college age has an iPad. Some schools have smart whiteboards that encourage on-screen interaction from afar and save notes for future use. Audio and soft copy versions of books have replaced those bound in leather.

There are undoubtedly benefits to technology in education, but what’s next? Uber running on-demand school buses?

While learners have been able to harness Google for decades now, it also seems to finally be an acceptable source in a research paper.

Technology in the classroom has escalated so quickly, but is it for better or worse? Expert studies seem to have a mixed opinion.

Has Technology Changed the Classroom – For Better or Worse?

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the potential benefits of technology in education, citing an improvement in educational performance when technology is used in moderation, but a big drop when students are overexposed to computers and the internet.

 One of the major benefits of technology in education is that it’s good to start them young – after all, technology is the way of the future, and if a child knows how to code in Kindergarten, well then, a technology sector that currently lacks qualified candidates will turn around a few decades from now.

Others feel education is losing its humanity and think tech’s value in learning hinges in five key factors:

  • Is technology fostering creativity and personal expression?
  • Does technology help develop learners as a person?
  • Does the technology engage the learner and is it fun for them?
  • Does technology consider the whole learner?
  • Does technology involve both the teacher and learner?

In order for technology in the classroom to be truly viable, it shouldn’t be designed to make things easier – because then we’re building a generation that embraces shortcuts. School isn’t supposed to be easy – the element of a challenge still needs to exist.

Technology in the classroom should be designed to supplement a good teacher, not replace one. If used incorrectly, technology can make students and teachers alike lazier, which is the last thing education needs. 

Is the Race For a Smarter Classroom Moving Too Fast?

There seems to be a race among school districts to be the fastest to adapt to smart classroom technologies. For school districts, it’s one thing to meet the initial investment to provide state-of-the-art learning tools, but each and every fall Tim Cook reveals Apple’s new iPad lineup. There is always a constant battle to keep technology relevant, while good old fashioned books never go out of style.

School districts should step back and consider the benefits of technology in the classroom and weight the cons as well – discovering what works and what doesn’t. There needs to be a thoughtful strategy in place surrounding technology in the classroom to make students smarter and teachers better. 

Of course, a conscious decision needs to be made about investing in technology, but more importantly, the investment in students’ needs to be taken more seriously. There is little evidence that technology has made a huge impact in reading and math scores yet, but this is the new normal.   

It may be time for schools to slow down and focus on what’s important. The most effective people don’t always have the flashiest toys, but they can certainly help. Even in the classroom, technology is best used in moderation – at least for now.

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