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.


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

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

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Native, Digital Immigrant. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved from,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

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


5 thoughts on “The American Classroom: A Digital Vision in a Digital Age

  1. Jenny,
    Very thoughtful comments. Our students do definitely live in a digital age. However, I am always amazed at how many I encounter that still don’t understand the technology. I live and work in a rather poor district where students use computers more for email and facebook than research and education. It is definitely a process that’s needs to be changed.
    –Aaron Dore

  2. Aaron – you are too right. If you take a peek at the Prensky article, though from 2001, it discusses that concept of digital “natives” and “immigrants.” The immigrants being older generations and other populations (low SES) that lack computer skills. Very interesting read that I was first introduced to during state course work for a ‘Classrooms for the Future’ grant.

  3. Excellent start, Jenny; nice narrative and use of references. I especially appreciate your comment, “This fundamental difference requires a shift in teaching practices that promote, utilize, and cultivate the use of technology in the classroom.” I wish more educators would understand this!

  4. Great job! I agree that students think and process information differently and require a different approach to teaching. Technology has become a dependent part of our everyday lives and should be utilized to help students learn. You are absolutely correct when saying that technology also improves the teacher’s ability to save time when planning. They can now use the internet to search for lesson plans, therefore not having to start from scratch on a lesson. It also allows them to easier document and track student progress.

  5. Well written! I agree that students today definitely learn and process information differently. Oregon trail was a big hit when I was in elementary school– and with that it shows that teaching practices have changed tremendously since then. Although, in poorer districts without the resources to have and maintain the latest technology tools, those uses might still be similar–teachers using computer time as a reward for completing assignments. However, as technology continues to evolve and schools continue to obtain more technology tools and resources for training and implementation, my hope is that teachers find that technology needs to be used seamlessly in a student-centered way to give our 21st century students the skills that they need to excel– not just use technology as a reward for completion of paper and pencil assignments. Hopefully those teachers that are unwilling to learn how to use new technology tools and change their teaching practices to incorporate technology will soon see the benefits that technology can offer, not just the students, but the teachers themselves! Great points!

    I really liked the Lenz article– I found it very useful while writing my vision statement as well!


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