Implement technology with a focus on student outcomes
When making decisions about the use of technology in schools, it’s important to define the problem with the right questions. “What will this new technology bring to students?” is more important than “What can this new technology do?”
Digital resources and online tools should be designed and directly linked to improving student learning outcomes in the short and long term. Focusing on outcomes rather than product features—the “bells and whistles”—allows educators to better align solutions to drive equity and success in classrooms.
To aid in decision-making on which technologies to adopt, educators should consult science learning. Learning sciences are grounded in the neuroscience of how our brains make sense of information, and they tell us that technology can enhance learning in unique ways when used correctly. Ultimately, technology should always support non-technology student learning outcomes.
Create effective guardrails for educational technology
The start of the 2022-2023 school year has brought classrooms back to some sense of normalcy, but educators still face the difficult task of tackling unfinished learning related to the pandemic.
Balancing the need for classroom effectiveness and meeting a variety of student learning needs can feel like a juggling act. Digital guardrails — setting limits on what students can access on the internet during class — can help boost productivity.
The internet is a vast and varied place, and while it can be an amazing learning tool, it can also quickly become a distraction or even a danger. With more than 547,200 new websites created every day worldwide and 500 hours of new videos posted to YouTube every minute, managing the ever-changing landscape of the Internet while keeping students safe and focused can feel like almost a liability. not possible for teachers.
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Factors to Consider When Setting Up Railings
There are a number of solutions available that can help teachers set thoughtful parameters around students’ digital exploration and filter out what isn’t necessary. The ability to adjust guardrails in real time, based on the day’s activity or a student’s specific learning needs, can lead to a more engaging learning environment.
When installing railings, it is useful to consider a number of factors:
Content areas: Depending on the topic of the class, teachers may need to adjust safety gates to keep students safe and focused while allowing for effective exploration.
For example, a student in a geometry course may only benefit from interacting with certain math-related websites, while a student in a global studies course may need broader research capabilities. Knowing which websites or online resources provide legitimate educational benefits for the course subject helps determine the right parameters.
Student needs: Students in the same class often work on different activities or towards different learning goals. A group collaborating on a research project needs a wide range of digital resources, while a student taking an exam only needs access to one website.
Learning modalities: Giving students the flexibility to choose how they want to learn and providing them with opportunities that take advantage of their specific learning modalities is the backbone of blended learning.
When setting up safety barriers, consider how different groups of students will learn that day. Those following teacher-led instruction may only need access to one resource at a time, while those engaging in collaborative activity will need entirely different digital resources. Adjusting railings in real time will create a streamlined experience for students.
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Technology value: Another point to consider is whether the technology is even necessary for the specific learning activity or desired outcome. While technological resources and online tools have been a game changer for education, teachers also want to avoid using technology just for the sake of technology.
Transparency: Setting clear expectations at the beginning of class and making students aware of the safeguards will help avoid confusion or frustration. It may be helpful to tell students, “In today’s activity, you will only need access to our Pear Deck slides and Google Maps. If you think you need additional resources to complete the tasks, please let me know.
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption and integration of technology into classrooms across the country. With this change comes challenges, but also an opportunity to ensure that we are using technology to best serve the interests of students.
Ultimately, students deserve safe and engaging experiences with educational technology, and teachers need to feel confident using individual devices in the classroom. By focusing on student outcomes and putting in place thoughtful safeguards, we can create effective learning environments that empower teachers and allow students to thrive.