From the Classroom to the Living Room: How Technology is Changing the Way Students and Teachers Interact
The technology boom of the past few decades has transformed nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From waking up – with help from the ubiquitous Keurig machine that simplifies the morning caffeine routine – to falling asleep at night – using apps designed to lull us into slumber – and nearly every moment in between is shaped by the technology that’s become a regular part of modern society.
It should come as no surprise that education has also been impacted by technological innovations. Classrooms once outfitted with whiteboards and traditional writing utensils are now equipped with interactive smartboards and 1:1 devices. The current generation of students has grown up using tablets and smartphones for enculturation, entertainment and now, education.
In the spring of 2020, technology was put to the test as schools moved to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. Almost overnight, educators had to adapt to conducting classes over video calls and students adjusted to interacting with their teachers and peers in a virtual classroom.
Without technology, especially the advancements that have been made in just the past year alone (often out of necessity), education as we know it could have crumbled. Imagine trying to lead a class of 25 students, all living miles apart from one another. It just wouldn’t be feasible without the use of webcams and laptops. Thanks to the tools that schools now have available to them, learning has continued to flourish, albeit in a different format.
With the onset of remote learning and social distancing, schools could no longer use tools of the past to facilitate learning when they were confined to empty classrooms. Instead, educators began the arduous task of overhauling the curriculum to incorporate full use of technology.
While some schools had implemented a 1:1 device program before the pandemic, others scrambled to purchase enough laptops to send one home with every student. Even some districts that were already 1:1 struggled to ensure devices remained operational, as damage rates tend to climb when devices leave school grounds.( 1 ) This caused the demand for laptops to skyrocket in the early months of 2020, and school administrators had to focus their energy on device management to ensure learning could continue, as uninterrupted as possible.( 2 )
While school leaders dealt with device shortages, teachers faced the challenge of shifting their lessons into a digital-friendly format. The face-to-face interaction that’s a key part of traditional education models was suddenly lost and replaced by Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings.
This shift proved demanding for both teachers and students.( 3 ) Many teachers said they missed the relationships they built with their students and were not as able to read their students’ body language and facial expressions in a remote environment. Students also reported missing out on in-person interactions with their teachers and peers.
However, some educators have discovered some benefits of remote learning, such as being able to meet one-on-one with students without the distractions that occur in the classroom. As they’ve adapted to teaching classes online, teachers have become more confident in using new technologies, which has helped them reach students in different ways to keep them excited about learning:
- Tools such as Google Classroom to facilitate class discussions, with students weighing in on prompts and teachers being able to see who participated and how.
- Microsoft’s Flipgrid social learning platform encourages students to interact with one another and respond to teacher prompts through video recordings.
- ClassVR’s headsets allow students to participate in virtual field trips.
It’s never been easier for educators to find tools to help them make learning more engaging and effective, even in a remote learning environment.
Coding is the New Cursive
The fundamentals of education have remained the same over the past several decades. Students are still expected to learn mathematics, science, grammar and other basic knowledge, but some lessons that were once the bread and butter of K-12 education have been replaced by new skills that are more applicable in our technologically advanced world.
Most adults remember learning the importance of good penmanship in elementary school as they practiced their cursive handwriting. Cursive began to fall out of favor in the early 2010s as many schools implemented the Common Core State Standards Initiative that focused on teaching keyboard skills instead.( 4 ) While some districts, particularly in the South, have pushed to add cursive back to the curriculum, it’s still not as predominant as it once was, simply due to how much communication occurs digitally nowadays. Working adults are more likely to type up emails and instant messages than write notes or letters with a pen and paper. It makes a lot more sense, from a college and career preparation stance, to teach students the skills they need to succeed in today’s working world.
One such skill – coding.
Data shows that 65% of students in elementary school today will work in jobs that currently don’t exist.( 5 ) Learning computer science skills, such as coding, helps students prepare for careers in a world that’s increasingly digital-centric.
While coding-related jobs, like web developers and business intelligence analysts, are in high demand, the benefits of learning to code begin well before a student enters the workforce.( 6 ) Coding has been shown to promote logical thinking, creativity, resilience and language-learning abilities, among other skills. Educators are starting to incorporate coding into the curriculum as they realize the powerful role technology can play in developing the next generation of workers.
Wayne Lawson, a former educator who worked to bring innovative technology to the Clark County School District, the fifth largest district in the U.S., believes technology and education have a symbiotic relationship.
“As a society, I believe we have to adapt in our approach to teaching and engagement,” he says. “The teacher has to go beyond simply regurgitating information. Simply put, move away from traditional means and focus on what is relevant in a student’s life and future career.”
No matter what career path a student takes, it’s almost certain that technology will be a part of it, so it’s crucial for schools to set students up for success in the classroom and beyond through the use of digital tools.
Resilient Students, Responsive Teachers
2020 has been a tough year all around. Children especially have been hard hit by the societal shifts that have happened due to the global pandemic, and the daily routine changes have been difficult for younger kids to understand. They’re used to going to school on weekday mornings, socializing with their classmates and interacting with their teachers. Now many students are learning from home, only communicating with peers and educators through a computer.
While a remote learning environment isn’t what anyone expected at the beginning of the year, students are facing the challenge head-on – and succeeding – thanks to their early exposure to technology. Many children are adept smartphone and tablet users before their first day of kindergarten because of how prevalent devices are in our society.
While leading health experts such as the World Health Organization strongly encourage limiting children’s access to screens, especially for kids under age 5, research shows that when technology is used appropriately, it can be a valuable learning tool.( 7, 8 )
Young learners can use tech tools to explore new worlds and engage in activities that encourage the development of social, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to name just a few. Now that many students are learning entirely online, understanding how to use technology is even more critical for academic proficiency.
Just a year ago I was teaching my own kids, then in kindergarten and first grade, how to log in and open a web browser,” says Annica Harrison, a San Diego-based STEM learning specialist. “Now they are completing assignments, recording videos and documenting their written work on their own. We all know it has been a very tough year in education especially, but it has been amazing to see how resilient the students are and how strong and amazing our educators are.”
It's not only resiliency that has propelled the success of remote learning. The responsiveness of teachers has played a big role in helping students flourish in the current educational climate.
Educators are noticing how remote learning seems to be advantageous for many students.( 9 ) Some thrive in an environment where they can learn at their own pace instead of following the typical school day schedule, others no longer feel pressured to fit in socially, and still others have more time to focus on schoolwork rather than extracurricular activities – which, while beneficial, can cause students to feel overwhelmed if they’ve committed themselves to multiple clubs and sports.
While some students are floundering in remote learning situations, teachers understand that education is not one-size-fits-all and are moving away from the traditional classroom model. Instead, they’re working to better respond to the needs of individual students and implement changes when in-person learning resumes full time.
The coronavirus pandemic hit the education world like a meteor – fast and furious. It disrupted the traditional student-teacher relationship and forced educators to rethink student engagement. Technology helps them interact with their classes in a virtual environment and allows them to better respond to individual student needs. New tools enable teachers to flex their creative muscles and experiment with different ways of delivering lessons. Adapting curriculum to be digitally focused empowers educators to prepare their students for careers in a technologically advanced world.
While the education system may never be the same going forward, it will almost certainly be more favorable for students and teachers as they are readier than ever to face the challenges that society brings. With technology on their side, they can remain connected, from the classroom to the living room to anywhere in the world.
For more resources on fostering remote and hybrid learning success, view the Trox Remote Learning Must-Haves guide and learn more about our complete solutions.
- Johnson, D. 2019, January 22. 8 ways to reduce device damage in 1:1 programs. [News]
- Rauf, D. 2020, April 1. Coronavirus Squeezes Supply of Chromebooks, iPads, and Other Digital Learning Devices [News]
- Heubeck, E. 2020, June 2. How Did COVID-19 Change Your Teaching, for Better or Worse? See Teachers’ Responses [Report]
- Berger, T. 2017, March 10. What We Lose With the Decline of Cursive [News]
- World Economic Forum. 2016. The Future of Jobs and Skills [Report]
- Bonfiglio, C. 2018, September 30. 10 benefits of coding beyond the computer [Blog]
- World Health Organization. 2019, April 24. To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more [News]
- Office of Educational Technology. Guiding Principles for Use of Technology with Early Learners [Report]
- Fleming, N. 2020, April 24. Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning? [Article]
About the Author
Ashley Wallinger is a content marketing specialist at Trox. She began her career in broadcast journalism, working as a producer at two TV stations, where she created content for news broadcasts and digital platforms. She has since held roles as a digital copywriter for a marketing agency, as well as a social media specialist overseeing content creation and analytics for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.