Embracing the Age of Technology in the Classroom

Michelle Areaux
Middle School Language Arts Teacher

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It seems everywhere you look in our society, kids have their noses stuck in a cell phone or iPad or another type of electronic device. We've all seen the hilarious videos of people falling into water founts at the mall while scrolling through their phones, or the photos of kids sitting together at a social function; all while sitting texting and viewing their social media sites. While at times this may seem like the downfall of our society, this idea of teens obsessed with technology just may be the answer to many educators' dreams.

Now, let me preface this by saying I fought the use of technology in my classroom for a long time. I believed if I allowed students to use their cell phones or have access to a small laptop, they would be texting or playing games instead of listening to instruction. However, after viewing several classrooms in my school and researching this topic, I decided to give in to the new trend in education.

First, I viewed a classroom in which all students had access to a chrome book lap top. The teacher uploaded the daily assignment into Google Classroom and then students were able to download the form, complete, and share it with their teacher to receive notes or comments to make corrections. It was fascinating to say the least how easy it was for students to complete their assignment and the educator was utilizing their time by helping students instead of racing around the room looking for a pencil for little Johnny because he never comes to class prepared. This also allowed students fast feedback so they could analyze their answers and really focus on learning.

Next, I viewed a classroom where students used their cell phones to play a learning game. Students logged in to a site that was also projected on the overhead screen at the front of the room. Questions were displayed both on the screen in the classroom and on their phones. Once all students submitted an answer using their cell phones, the overhead screen displayed the answer results. This too allowed for a fast analysis of student learning and an option for a discussion on analyzing the correct answer. It was interesting to see how students were able to incorporate their cellular devices while learning in the classroom.

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Also, allowing students access to their cell phones can become a valuable tool in the classroom. Learning to research, to locate the answer to a question on their own, is an important skill all students need to learn. In college, students must learn to find answers to questions on their own and when they jump into the real world and get a job, they will have to learn how to find answers themselves. I allow students to use their cell phones in class to look up definitions of words while we compete vocabulary assignments.

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Now, I don't know about you all, but I only have a few working computers in my classroom or available to me most days. Students can now download Google docs onto their phones and type their essays on their phones. They can share this with me and I can make comments and corrections and share back with them. This immediate feedback is critical and highly important during the writing process. This also saves on printing multiple copies of a student's essay. I can add comments to a final draft, include a grade, and share back with the student. I then save all essays into a folder on Google docs and now I have saved hundreds of pieces of papers from being printed.

Finally, as a language arts teacher it has taken me some time to embrace the idea of technology within my classroom. I am a true believer in reading a real book, not holding a Kindle or other e-reader. However, allowing my students to download their novels onto their phones gave them more options to read in class. When I conduct literature circles in my class I am sometimes limited on the amount of students that can read a specific book because I may only have four copies of a novel, but five students who want to read that book. With students downloading novels onto their phones, now I am not turning a student away from reading a novel that could possibly become their favorite. Anytime I can promote reading I will go above and beyond to do that; even if that means allowing students to use their cell phones.

While I know many young educators are jumping into the age of technology into the classroom, some of us ‘old school' teachers are slowly stepping into that idea. I see the benefits of utilizing all aspects of technology within your curriculum and classroom procedures, but I also see some of the downfalls too. We have to be mindful that while Google Classroom, online learning games and tools, and other formats are helpful, we all need to remember this is the direction of society is moving. It is time we must all learn to embrace technology in the classroom. Let's face it, technology is only advancing so we need to accept it and prepare to find ways to effectively use it to engage our students.