Using Technology in the Classroom – Finding the Perfect Balance

Students of today are demonstrating, in large, the impact of having developed in the digital era. These youth have been completely normalized by digital technologies—it is a fully integrated aspect of their lives. For this reason, this cohort of students has come to be known as digital natives (Prensky, 2001a). Prensky argues that these digital natives contain brain structures that are actually different from those of ‘digital immigrants,’ or the digitally illiterate from previous generations (Prensky, 2001b). To a teacher with a psychology background, this phenomenon of something called ‘neural plasticity’ makes perfect sense. For those who may not have the neurology background, the video below may may make this idea a little more clear:

As the video explains, an individuals brain is largely shaped by the environment around it. It is the use of technology in every aspect of life that has molded the brains of Digital Natives to be different than those of previous generations. Ultimately, this has changed the way students learn. Prensky argues that the differences are so significant that the nature of education itself must fundamentally change to accommodate the skills and interests of these ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001a)

Unlike Prensky, I would argue that  it is unnecessary to make fundamental changes, especially those in course content.  Being a digital native, it is only in my nature to use technology whenever possible. Within the next few years, the influx of digital native teachers may, in itself, influence the types of lessons and amount of technology used in the classroom. There are several forms of technology that I will, undoubtedly, use in my future teaching career. Here are 3 technologies that I think will be particularly useful and beneficial to student success:

1. SmartBoard – The smart board is a great tool to use for lessons, class discussions and hands-on activities. The Smart Board is an interactive presentation board that can be extremely effective as a medium to include students in learning. For idea consolidation, students can be asked to drag pictures representing ideas into categories or corresponding concepts. Teachers can use the smart board as a digital whiteboard that can save notes for later use.

2. Tablets – In addition to endless educational application possibilities, tablets can be extremely useful in group work. With basic apps for calculations, timers, weather, maps, video, photography (and more!), tablets can act as a useful tool in almost any subject. In group discussions, a tablet enables students to any information at their fingertips. Often times, an idea comes up in discussion and is left behind because students are not able to access the information required to follow the thought. When students have access to a tablet, they can simply ‘google’ to find the information.

3. Video Games – To date, there haven’t been too many exceptional educational video games; however, as this field becomes more popular the quality has been increasing exponentially (Sanford & Hopper, 2010). Through video games, students can complete a series of tasks that help to teach them the required concepts. In addition to a consolidation discussion, video games can be useful in engaging Digital Natives in their learning. The allure of video games comes from their absolute versitility. For literacy and numeracy, video games can be altered to fit so many interests. Furthermore, several versions of the game can be created that will cater to diverse abilities.

Although the use of technology proves to be helpful in teaching and learning, we must find a balance in the amount of technology we bring into the classroom.  It is pertinent for students to gain the basic literacy and numeracy skills without the use of technology, before relying on it. Students must learn to write using a pen and paper before learning how to make the process easier with a computer. When students learn to write, they are practicing their fine motor skills – skills that may not be properly developed otherwise.

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