The Pros and Cons of Tech in the Classroom

Not too long ago, teachers would consistently remind us just how essential mathematics were for daily life. After all, it’s not like we’d always have access to a calculator in our pockets when we were older, right?

Well, cut to the present, and probably all of us have exactly that and much more in the form of a sleek and powerful smartphone. As we’ve observed before, education is always changing as a result of technological breakthroughs and this can be observed even today.

The assimilation of technology has irreversibly transformed everything from the way instructors teach to the way they assign and grade homework. And with such a grand-scale change, there comes potential for both exciting benefits and less inspiring detriments. Of course, before we delve into the pros and cons, it could help to describe what we mean when we talk about classroom “tech”.   

What Do We Mean By “Tech in the Classroom”?

college lecture hall

When we talk about classroom tech, you might immediately assume we mean pieces of hardware like smart boards and app-lead activities like class surveys and presentations. While these are surely amazing assets for any class, there are even more readily accessible tools both teachers and students can use to optimize the learning process as well as make it more interactive and entertaining.

Laptops, especially in the college lecture setting, can make note taking much quicker and easier, allowing students additional time to engage in asking questions to supplement what they write (or type) down. Some teachers even allow the use of laptops and tablets in order to host chats on social media. Others do the same to utilize services such as Google Classroom to make the grading and distribution of assignments entirely digital and paperless. Regardless of the end result, the different applications of tech in the classroom are practically endless.

Naturally, wide-scale use of these kinds of tech are going to require reliable charging. For that, portable battery packs or even a charging station can be immensely conducive to an efficient smart classroom.

If you’re looking for classroom tech tools, here are some resources that could point you in the right direction.

27 Tech Tools Teachers Can Use to Inspire Classroom Creativity – Ozobot

6 Awesome Classroom Gadgets That Are Also Affordable – Whooosreading

29 Essential Smart Classroom Tools/Websites – Edsys

Now, with that in mind, what makes tech worth incorporating into the classroom? And what prospective pitfalls can you expect by modernizing your lectures in this way? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of classroom tech.

The Pros

smart classroom

Instant Feedback

When dealing with new materials, nipping bad habits and improper understandings in the bud quickly is essential. Fail to do so, and a student can struggle with a certain lesson and fall behind as more and more is added to the curriculum.

Surprising no one, technology allows for a more dynamic class setting, allowing you to boost engagement with polling and quiz questions whose results can be collected instantly. If results tend to lean towards an incorrect answer, you can quickly change your lesson to address what could be leading your students astray.

Digital textbooks can even include embedded links that take students to supplemental materials that can help them better understand certain concepts.

Encourage Participation

Any teacher can tell you, often the hardest part of leading a class or lecture is enticing students to participate. Fear of being wrong or looking like they’re behind the rest of the class can stop students from making the mistakes they need to learn better in the future.

Fortunately, the polls and surveys we mentioned above can be made anonymous. Students no longer need to feel embarrassed when they submit an answer and can instead focus on learning why they made the mistakes they did.

Interactivity

One of the first things we learn in school is that there are different types of learners. Whether it be visual, audible, or learning through actual application, finding a way to make your lectures engaging on all those fronts can be challenging to say the least.

Fortunately, a number of different apps exist for classes of all levels that can help. From anatomical references to letter recognition apps, there’s an educational supplement for any lesson and style of learning. Many teachers also opt to go the “gamification” route for their classes.

That is to say, they incorporate video games, role play, and apps that foster healthy competition between students to ramp up engagement. Professor Liz Kolb explains how that process worked for her on edutopia.    

The Cons

tablet in classroom

Prospective Distraction

Technology surely brings an array of perks and benefits, but that’s not to say all of the reservations we’ve heard before hold no merit. Laptops and app usage can serve as a distraction and can pull away from the class if it isn’t incorporated well. Some teachers may, understandably, think that this is grounds for banning computers in the class altogether. Professors like Matthew Numer, however, argue that it’s the instructor’s job to make their lectures interesting enough to not allow attention to be taken away by things like apps and computers.

If you feel like this could be an issue for your class, it might be worth considering exactly how you will add tech to your curriculum. Perhaps technology works better in your case if it’s limited to certain projects or certain times. Regardless, it could help to consider that distraction is a pitfall many smart classrooms suffer from.

Discourages Social Interaction

A problem some classes can face if they start leaning a little too heavily on technology, is a lack of social interaction between students. This disconnection may not seem like a big deal, but social stimulation can be directly tied to levels of engagement and how receptive students are to your material.

Technology should be a tool, not something that your class can’t live without. Try to incorporate a mix of technological elements as well as oral presentations and group projects that encourage collaboration. It may take some trial and error, but once you find that perfect blend, you’ll begin to see it in the faces of your students (as well as in their grades).

Can Encourage Cheating

Cheating will always happen in the classroom. To some extent, there’s no stopping students from trying and tech will surely make it a bit easier in many regards. But as teachers, you can make that process as difficult as possible.

If you’re worried your students may jump at the chance to cheat, it could help to make your tests open-book. Doing so can motivate you to structure your tests in such a way that students actually have to think about their answers instead of just regurgitating facts and stats. You could also vary questions based on the student so no one exam is the same. And as far as plagiarism goes, tools like Turnitin can also be an immense help.

Is it Worth Adding Tech to Your Classroom?

Ultimately, whether or not tech will add to your classroom experience can vary based on the subject, types of assignments, and so much more. While that may be the case, the benefits that come with the right technology can hardly be denied.

If you plan on optimizing your class, keep some of the tools and apps we mentioned in mind! The more attention you put towards finding the tools that lend themselves better to your specific class, the higher the chance you’ll see increased engagement during your next lecture.

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