Guide on Education Technology

Technology in Education: The Complete Guide

by Becton Loveless

Technology is increasingly becoming a more important part of education. Both software and hardware is becoming ever more important to improving the education process. Thanks to mobile phones and tablets, teachers can now deploy a range of technologies in the classroom, including augmented reality technology. However, mobile devices themselves act as powerful computing devices these days. Teachers should also look to innovative ways of integrating technology that students are used to using, such as social media networks. These technologies, in addition to virtual reality, 3D printing, and cloud computing, lay the groundwork for creating enhanced learning environments that are engaging and effective.

Mobile Technology

More than ever, students have access to powerful computing technology not in the form of desktop PCs, but in the form of mobile technology. Phones today are internet browsers, personal computing devices, calculators, and more. Tablets serve much the same function of putting powerful computing technology into the hands of students in a way that keeps them mobile.

Today, mobile technology can be used in numerous ways to enhance the classroom. On a basic level, it can be used to fulfill basic needs like making calculations, recording classroom lectures, and taking notes. However, this barely begins to scratch the surface of what mobile technology can do. This technology can be taken out during science field trips and used to document natural phenomenon. Similarly, history field trips can be enhanced by taking photos of historically significant structures.

Teachers can use online polling services to test their classrooms at the end of a lesson. Teachers can project a question onto the wall and then have students text their answer to the teacher using a multiple-choice format in which they choose A, B, C, D, or E. The software then compiles the answers and displays the percentage of students who chose what answer using a graph. This can help establish just how much the class has learned. Afterward, a teacher can respond to the responses by judging whether they need to go in-depth with the material again or not. If a large percentage missed the question, then it might be necessary to go over the lesson in detail once again. If not, then it may be necessary to simply review the material briefly.

The power of mobile devices also makes it easier than ever for students to conduct research in the classroom. Instead of needing to have a computer available for every student, teachers can now rely on cell phones to link students to the internet, where they can track down information about a topic that they’re studying. There are also apps that teachers can have students use. These apps can fulfill multiple role, including providing demographic data or specific bits of history on certain topics. However, it’s important for teachers to clear the software they’re going to use with their administrators prior to having it installed on students’ phones.

Mobile technology is also important because it can allow students to collaborate using social networks in the classroom. Indeed, social networks are increasingly being valued for their ability to enhance the learning experience.

Social Networks

For many teachers, the mere mention of social networks conjures the image of distracting software that prevents students from learning. This can be true, but it’s also possible to harness the power of social media and use it in such a way that it actually benefits students. However, each form of social media has its own set of strengths. These are just a few of the ways that teachers are taking social networking and using it as a way to enhance the education process.

Facebook

Facebook can be considered a ‘hub’ social network since it allows teachers to create group pages that students can join. These pages can be used in a number of ways to keep students up to date on what’s going on in the class. Teachers can write up important announcements and pin them to the top of the group page. Or, they can announce reminders in the normal group feed to alert students when homework, quizzes, and tests are coming up.

Facebook groups can also be used by teachers to encourage conversation between students. Questions can be used to encourage responses and students can discuss materials on the group page. This is an easy way of encouraging participation among students.

Twitter

Twitter is less of a hub than Facebook because there is no way to create a dedicated page that students can join and work from. Where Twitter derives all its power from is its use of hashtags. Hashtags can be created by teachers and used to encourage group participation. For instance, a teacher can create a hashtag like #PhilsHistory. Then, every student who uses that hashtag in their tweets will be discoverable when the class searches for the hashtag, #PhilsHistory.

In class, teachers can use this to get questions or responses from students. A projection of the Twitter feed can be projected onto a wall and teachers can go through their lectures. As they do, students can Tweet using that hashtag to ask the teacher a question in the middle of their lecture. The question will come up on the Twitter feed as long as the class has already searched for that hashtag. The same process can be used to get responses to class-wide questions the lecturer might ask. This can help encourage participation even from shy students.

Instagram

Instagram is much like Twitter except with a much higher emphasis on taking and sharing photos instead of writing and sharing Tweets. Using Instagram, students can take photos and label them with a hashtag. Using the example of #PhilsHistory once more, students on a field trip to a historic site can take pictures of interesting parts of the site and then tag them. When the class gets back together in the classroom, a search for the hashtag will reveal all the photos that the class took during the trip. Afterward, the teacher and students can discuss what pictures were taken and why students chose those photos. The teacher can then launch into a discussion about the importance of structures or locations that students captured in their photos.

This is just one example of how social media can be used to enhance the classroom. Any class that is going to be engaging in hands on projects can use photography to enhance the experience. Science field trips can capture interesting animals and plants in photos. Students working on engineering projects can photograph each stage of what they’re building and then walk their peers through the process in a class discussion. Teachers can also use Instagram as a basic way of capturing classroom memories. A year’s worth of work can be better remembered when students capture each moment in photos and share them with each other using the class’ hashtag. This is also an easy way of encouraging parental participation, since they can search the hashtag themselves and see everything that students are doing in the classroom.

Immersive Technologies

Immersive technologies refer to technologies that alter the reality and space in which an individual interacts. These technologies can be entirely immersive, or they can be only partly immersive. Entirely immersive technology takes the form of virtual reality while partly immersive technology takes the form of augmented reality. Both types of technology can be used to enhance the learning process.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality involves the creation of a computer-generated artificial environment. These environments can be entirely novel or based on real life situations. Immersion takes place when users put on a VR headset and headphones, thereby submersing them in the artificial environment.

For years, there have been efforts to make virtual reality a mainstream technology. However, these efforts have been hindered by the costs involved. However, recent developments have made virtual reality much more affordable and mainstream. Technologies like the Oculus headset have been developed for interaction with games and 3D movies. However, the headset can also be used to teach people in a hands-on experience that would be hard to experience in real life. For instance, it may be impossible for many students to experience what it’s like to pilot an airplane. However, virtual reality can artificially generate that environment so that students can learn the intricacies of piloting an aircraft.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that it does not involve the creation of a wholly artificial environment. Instead, it relies on the existing, physical environment to work. Augmented reality uses devices, such as tablets or mobile phones, to view the physical world in new ways. The technology overlays digital images onto the physical space, and users can view the result on the screens of their devices.

One of the benefits of AR technology is that it is much more cost effective that virtual reality. Smart phones are found everywhere in modern society, including among students. This means it’s easier to integrate augmented reality into the classroom than virtual reality. It’s also easier to develop software for augmented reality, which has led to the creation of many apps that take advantage of the technology.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

When it comes to integrating different types of immersive technology, is one superior to the other? Not really. It would be more accurate to say that each technology has its own set of strengths that users can take advantage of. Augmented reality is helpful in the classroom because it can bring lessons to life. Students reading a book can use their phone to view certain digital images come to life, for instance, helping to make the lesson more memorable. Virtual reality, on the other hand, may be particularly beneficial when fully immersive conditions will benefit a student. A science course may immerse students into a hazardous environment, for example, to let them see the effect of mixing dangerous chemicals without actually putting them into physical harm.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has changed the way that students share and work with materials. One way that the cloud helps in classes is in how it changes the way students tackle projects. Information can be saved to the cloud, which is particularly helpful when students need to collaborate on a group assignment. Here, the cloud can be put into action in a very potent way. Google Docs, for example, stores all information online. A group can assign different parts of the project to its members. Those roles can be saved to a Google Docs spreadsheet so that students can refer back to that sheet from any location that’s connected to the internet. They can also add information to the spreadsheet to let others know where they are in their part of the project.

As students complete their parts of the project, they can save those documents to a cloud location. This can be done by uploading saved documents to a cloud location or by using a cloud-based service, such as the word processor in Google Docs. In either case, once the document is saved, other members of the group can access the document and leave feedback. Using this approach, students can stay constantly engaged with one another and help improve the group’s work. This is also an effective means of ensuring that everybody is contributing.

Using cloud based, online software should be seriously considered by every school if only for the simple fact that it helps even the playing field for students of various backgrounds. Traditional software, installed on a computer, is often expensive. This can leave certain students at a disadvantage when it comes completing projects that that require slides, spreadsheets, documents, and other materials. Cloud based software changes the situation entirely by making it easier for students to get their work done using freely available, online software.

3D Printing

One of the biggest trends in recent years has been the shift toward Maker Education. Maker Education refers to a type of teaching that focuses heavily on creation and projects rather than lectures and paperwork. Some teachers try to change their entire classes into Maker Spaces, where the majority of work involves these kinds of hands-on projects. This is where 3D printing plays a significant role, since it perfectly complements the Maker approach to education. However, any teacher who simply wants to assign engaging assignments can look to 3D printing as a way to enhance the classroom.

There are certain classes where 3D printing will work best, particularly in science and engineering courses. Science teachers can help students come up with new types of animals that would survive in various environmental conditions and have them design and print these animals. This approach helps to encourage a higher level of engagement among students. Engineering students, on the other hand, can design structures using modeling software and then print those out to show to the class. Such approaches take imagery that would otherwise be limited to a digital presentation and produces a physical version of it, bringing to life the concepts that students have worked on.

However, 3D printing can play a strong role whenever teachers want to get their students hands-on with their materials. For instance, software is available that students can use to create interesting, creative figures using the software’s 3D modeler. Afterward, the model can be sent to the printer, bringing the model to life in the physical world. This approach to art helps students work on their spatial skills and better understand how to connect two dimensional and three-dimensional images.

The potential for integrating 3D printers into the classroom don’t end there. History students can use the printer to create models of ancient structures, like pyramids and castles. Geography teachers can instruct students about different types of terrain, then have them design and print mountains, peninsulas, and other landforms. With a creative approach, teachers of almost any class can integrate this kind of technology into their classrooms.

Conclusion

In the past, teachers often used technology that was designed specifically for the classroom, such as educational software. However, the modern environment has created technology not specifically designed for education but that can perfectly enhance the classroom. One of the common threads between these very different types of technology if the fact that they increase the engagement of students. They get students working with their materials in a more hands-on approach and encourage students to collaborate with one another. In this way, technology is making education more effective than ever.

Read Also:
- Myths and Realities About Technology in K12 Schools

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