The American Classroom: A Digital Vision in a Digital Age

Students just aren’t like they used to be.  A common grumble possibly overheard in faculty dining rooms across the country.  In fact, today’s students are different than generations before them.  Today’s students live in a digital age filled with visual stimuli, virtual networks, and instant communication.  Because of the students’ extensive interaction with modern technology and resources like the Internet, mobile smart devices, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter they “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (Prensky, 2001).  This fundamental difference requires a shift in teaching practices that promote, utilize, and cultivate the use of technology in the classroom.

The modern 21st century classroom is a blended environment of direct teacher led instruction, collaborative student activities, and computer based learning scenarios.  Gone are the days when teachers dangled Oregon Trail and computer time in front of unmotivated students as a class incentive to get the worksheet done.  Students today use technology in a seamless fashion.  The laptop computer is becoming as comfortable as pencil in hand.  The classroom laptop represents “a voice for dyslexic readers, an essential communication and social device for autistic students, a tool for the dysgraphic, and an organizational must-have for everyone” (Lenz, 2012).

Technology rich classrooms don’t only benefit the students’ learning.  The ability to plan, implement, and assess students is greatly improved by technology in the classroom.  Interactive white boards have erased the need for teachers to, well, erase.  Automatic response systems can aid teachers in anything from “designing questions and tracking a student’s yearly progress to generating reports and instantly grading assignments” (Miller, 2007).   Minutes saved in planning, classroom instruction, and scoring assessments are minutes better used to deepen and advance students’ learning. Better still, in today’s tough economy when many schools manage with less than optimal staffing and resources         “[c]omputer-based courseware materials can help make-up for the lack of required resources in the school or the classroom” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, pg. 52).

Teachers and schools must embrace the new standard of education that require 21st century skills sets.  Students must exit their education with the ability to use technology in an efficient and useful manner to complete tasks, collaborate with others, and solve problems.

Resources:

Lenz, B. (2012, February 8). From the Classroom: What Does Blended Learning Look Like? | Edutopia. K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work | Edutopia. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/blended-learning-example-classroom-lesson-bob-lenz

Miller, J. (2007, December 17). Pick and Click: Interactive Assessment Goes to School | Edutopia. K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work | Edutopia. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-classroom-response-systems

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Native, Digital Immigrant. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.