Remember the old days, when “educational technology” meant fancy pencil sharpeners and clunky overhead projectors? Times have drastically changed, as any visit to a school will reveal. Students use iPads at their desks. Automated tutoring software complements the daily lesson plan. Teachers use online learning management systems to track assignments and hand out grades. And data collection allows us to analyze the results of it all.
So far, the trend seems to be positive. Since 2010, 8 million iPads have been sold to classrooms around the world, and preliminary studies show a consistent increase in engagement and performance. A 2014 RAND survey of a Carnegie Learning algebra program found that the blended learning (or technology-enhanced) model boosted average students’ performance by approximately eight percentage points.
But what exactly is it about education technology that’s delivering such measurable gains? CMIT Solutions identified the following five reasons, which we’ve gleaned from industry research and also from hands-on experience working with schools to upgrade their technology systems:
1) Technology often makes personal interactions richer. Very few people think that just giving students a tablet will automatically make their educational experiences better. But true advances can occur when technology shakes up the usual teaching model (one teacher talking to a classroom of 20 or 30) by encouraging students to work independently and in groups—and then giving educators the chance to check up on those individuals and students. Best of all, this advantage applies to learners of every age, from preschoolers just learning to tap and scroll to adults collaborating from afar.
2) Technology can give students a heightened sense of excitement and ownership in their education. Most studies, including an extensive one by Canadian researchers, find that the biggest benefit of educational technology is information access and portability. But motivation and creativity routinely come in second or third, as technology can extend learning beyond usual school hours and give students extra incentive to read on their own, become more organized, and work at their own pace. Of course, in instances where tablets are allowed to go home with students, enhanced security settings are required to protect devices, their users, and their owners. That’s where the help of a trusted IT advisor experienced with deployment of educational technology can be critical.
3) Technology can give disadvantaged students a significant leg up. From impoverished cities in the United States to rural territories in Canada and disconnected communities around the world, technology provides less-fortunate students with opportunities to excel that simply did not exist before the computer age. Take Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ recent TheVerge.com article about a 15-year-old Mongolian student who aced an online MIT circuits and electronics course from his home in Ulan Bator—and then got accepted to MIT the very next year, where he currently works with edX to (you guessed it) further improved educational technology for future students.
4) Technology can make schools run more efficiently and with increased productivity. The educational gains provided by technology are undeniable. But let’s not forget how technology can help businesses run better, too—and in this day and age, more and more schools are operating as successful small businesses. Whether it’s increased bandwidth capabilities, secured wireless networks, administrative and operational software, or integrated communications systems, opportunities abound for helping both students and teachers harness the power of technology.
5) Technology represents a great investment for the future—for students, teachers, and administrators. Tablets, computers, and software can help students learn better, teachers teach better, and schools operate better, making an investment in technology a win-win-win. And implementing a plan with a trusted IT advisor like CMIT Solutions by your side will only improve the chances of success.
We have extensive experience helping educational facilities put technology to work for them to improve efficiency, productivity, and the overall learning process. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more.