Classroom technology in support of teachers

The way students engage and learn has changed – technology plays a central role. Brady O. Bruce, CMO of InFocus, explores the merits of technology in the classroom and how it supports teaching and learning

May 8 is National Teacher’s Day, giving us the opportunity to show our appreciation for the important work that teaching professionals do every day for students. Pedagogy and the demands placed on educators are evolving quickly, driven by a confluence of expanding expectations, new technologies, and the ongoing requirement to engage learners in an era of so many distractions.

At the same time, the opportunity exists for teachers to leverage their substantial training, experience and subject knowledge in even more powerful ways.

The evolution of technology

While still evolving in its role in the classroom, technology is becoming essential to teachers – helping to focus the in-class attention of students who spend their spare time with smartphones and tablets, VR, coding kits and even electronic animals.

The best classroom applications of teaching and collaboration technology are those that begin with a rational assessment of the goals, a solid plan for integrating it into the curriculum and plenty of training. However well-intended, bringing advanced systems into classrooms without that upfront work can waste valuable class time and leave students disappointed. But, with the right preparation, it can be a welcome supportive tool for teachers looking to incorporate new interactive content in their classrooms and lesson plans.

Getting to grips with new tools

Traditional classroom elements such as whiteboards, notebooks and handouts remain important to foster skills like note-taking, attentiveness and teamwork; but new and traditional methods can serve each other if properly balanced. Teachers can leverage real-world research and resources to help students learn research methods for finding accurate information or how to engage with data, maps and other online tools.

The addition of video conferencing allows students to interact directly with professionals in the field, giving them a front-row seat at archeological digs or advanced science experiments. The result is more engaged learners.

Ironing out the creases

However, not very long-ago classroom technology was sometimes a hindrance. When it was difficult to use, it would put more strain on teachers. The first technology entering the classroom was clunky – digital whiteboards had pens that squeaked and could only display web pages with little interaction.

Advancements are making them more useful for teachers, with more responsive touch capability, wireless content sharing from laptops and mobile devices and new ways to interact with content on the web or local drives.

A two-tiered approach

A digital whiteboard can enable teachers to incorporate digital content into lessons, create interactive note-taking sessions and allow student-led demonstrations. The traditional whiteboard was a tool used only by teachers, but its digital counterpart is allowing for a new classroom setup – a two-tiered approach using a digital whiteboard for the teacher at the front of the room, with students employing tablets or laptops as part of the interaction.

Wireless connectivity between the two makes it easier for teachers to make digital content a part of their lessons on the whiteboard, instead of just a glorified note-taking device. Schools can equip students with laptops or tablets to allow them to share their work in front of the class, creating an active learning experience with student input where teachers can lead discussions of peer work and encourage students to showcase their research findings.

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This two-tiered setup helps to create fluid and effective classroom interaction, as well as enables individualized instruction that allows kids to learn at their own pace. A digital whiteboard and wireless sharing, from student devices, encourages active learning, allowing students to draw on maps, use online games, or just share, save and send notes from brainstorming sessions.

Digital whiteboards are used in learning sessions like these:

  • Online games – Show a quiz on the whiteboard for all students to see and instruct them to select answers from their own tablets.
  • Problem-solving – Present a word problem, math equation, or grammar syntax exercise to students on the board, and draw on top of it to annotate processes, steps, and components of the equation or parts of speech. Share it with students afterwards to ensure that all students are actively engaged in the problem-solving portion of the class.
  • Student showcases – Assign a chapter of a book or research project to different groups of students, such as a writing assignment, digital scavenger hunt for research, or have the students create their own website. Then have them showcase or present what they learned on the whiteboard for classroom discussion.
  • Vocabulary games – Use the board to play educational Pictionary with vocabulary terms in small groups on the tablets and show winning drawings on the board.

Supporting personalized learning

These activities can be tailored to different age groups and school subjects. Students could create stop-motion style animations or diagrams on their tablets and share them with the class to illustrate concepts from biology or physics, follow order of operations in math, or show translation steps for a different language.

Drawing on the whiteboard is a fun activity for students that encourages them to get in front of the class and engage in active learning, which can help them better retain concepts. Being able to save notes and share them with the whole class ensures that the students are engaged in the moment, and not worried more about documenting the lesson than understanding the subject.

Working individually on the tablet brings the fun of collaborative work while giving the students time to work out their own assumptions or approach to the subject matter. Then, teachers can highlight exemplary work or talk through difficult tasks with the whole class, interacting wirelessly with the whiteboard and student devices.

Bringing it all together

Student devices, plus the digital whiteboard for the teacher, can allow the teacher to step back and supervise student group work projects. Students can be allotted time to work on a presentation and show their progress to the whole class via the connected whiteboard for peer feedback. This process can be inspiring for students and teaches them how to give and receive constructive criticism, supervised by the teacher leading the sharing session.

Moving forward, the classroom learning experience will shift towards more active student involvement in learning, freeing teachers from rote presentations and more direct interactions with engaged students. Personal technology and digital whiteboards encourage students to voice their thoughts in the classroom and take charge of their own learning experience. This environment promotes teamwork with collaboration, and more closely mirrors real-life working conditions, building student confidence and preparing them for a future with even more collaboration technology.

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