I don't know about you, but when I was in grade school I completed all of my assignments by hand. I remember sitting around a large table with my other classmates, reading sentences out loud, or solving math problems and writing our answers down on a piece of wide-ruled notebook paper with a No. 2 pencil. This was a pretty basic learning process. The only problem teachers would really have to worry about was being able to read a student's handwriting.
Fast forward to December 2015. Today, more schools are providing classrooms with digital devices such as iPads and Chromebooks aimed at making the entire learning and teaching process more personalized and manageable for both students and teachers. Studies from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the impact of personalized learning and availability of digital devices in the classroom even noted that students could make greater academic gains if enrolled in schools that offer personalized ways to learn through digital tools.
In turn, the rise of the digital classroom is catching on quickly. One American school district, for example, now has more than 1,400 new Chromebooks in place throughout their classrooms. They plan to add at least 1,100 more over the next year. The low cost, low maintenance and overall ease of Chromebooks and iPads are quickly replacing desktop computers, along with 'prehistoric' tools like pencils and paper.
The Digital Dilemma: What's the Solution?
While new technologies are being implemented in more classrooms to advance learning, a growing number of concerns have also surfaced. For instance, having access to broadband remains a critical barrier, along with understanding which tools are the most effective in the classroom. Teachers and administrators are also worried about monitoring their student's web activity.
To combat issues associated with these concerns, a number of measures are being taken to ensure better Wi-Fi access and Internet safety across digital classrooms. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is a big believer in personalizing education through technology to create reform in America's schools. This belief was highlighted when Zuckerberg recently announced that he and his wife plan to donate $20 million to EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit that aims to expand broadband access throughout schools. Coincidently, a new EductaionSuperHighway report demonstrates that 20 million students in the United States have now acquired broadband access in the classroom (since 2013).
While teachers are proving that they aren't afraid of allowing technology in classrooms, they have noted that a tools' effectiveness often depends on how it's being used by the students. According to a report conducted by the Gates Foundation, teachers gave the most praise to digital devices such as tablets and computer programs that allow them to vary the method of instruction. Only a third of the teachers surveyed thought that digital tools were effective for remediation, and half of the teachers believed that technology could effectively diagnose a students' learning needs. Various surveys such as the ones being conducted by the Gates Foundation are helping provide school administrators and teachers with a better understand as to which digital devices should be implemented in classrooms.
Finally, as digital devices become the learning norm, the question of web safety arises. How are teachers monitoring the content that their students are looking at all of the time? In order to ensure safe web searches, new software solutions and chrome extensions are being placed directly on digital devices. GoGuardian, for example, is a Chrome extension that provides teachers and administrators with a solution to interact with students as they complete assignments in real-time, while fostering a safe and productive classroom experience by filtering and monitoring how the internet is being used for learning. Currently, over 900 school districts are using GoGaurdian to monitor their Chromebooks.
A Digital Future
The age of wide ruled paper and No. 2 pencils is coming to end, if it hasn't already. Today's students will continue to be faced with iPads and Chromebooks for learning. Yet as more of America's school districts become digital, both teachers and administrators need to be aware of the challenges associated with a tech-savvy classroom. Being equipped with Wi-Fi and relevant devices is a must, along with ensuring web safety for their students. Fortunately, new solutions to ensure the success of digital learning are being created and utilized in classrooms across the country.