By Emma K. Murphy, Seton Hall University

Teachers are like superheroes—we are strong, steadfast, compassionate, and, most importantly, adaptable. In fact, adaptability is often seen as the most significant characteristic of a great educator. Students in teacher preparation programs need to be equipped with technological skills to bring into the classroom.

With technology advancing rapidly, new programs, including web-based activities and apps,  can be used to create a more positive classroom experience. Many advantages of using technology in the classroom include positive encounters with social-emotional learning, classroom engagement, and meaningful ways to encourage higher order thinking. Future educators should delve into this powerful classroom tool and embrace the adaptability we knew we had all along.

Social-emotional learning

There is a growing interest in social-emotional learning among researchers in curriculum development. Social-emotional learning is a process through which students can learn to cope with emotions and positively relate to their peers and surroundings. Students need to be competent in engaging their peers in positive ways, as research finds that this will result in college and career readiness.

McGraw-Hill’s Education Applied Learning Sciences Team concluded that game-based learning using technology can be a way to foster positive social-emotional learning. Web-based games such as Kahoot!, Quizlet or Poll Everywhere will encourage team building and positive social interactions. McGraw-Hill suggests that technology-based games will also support metacognition, or the skill of knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses and subsequent progress. Using the internet to have students collaborate with peers—when monitored by the teacher to ensure positive interactions—can encourage social-emotional learning and metacognition.

Classroom engagement

Another reason to incorporate technology-based learning in the classroom is to make skills, and the curriculum in which they are based, relevant to students. Technology has become a way for students to communicate, grow, and learn. In the 21st century, the use and knowledge of computers, smartphones, and personal tablets is a necessity for daily life and future professions.

When using technology in the classroom, students and teachers can collaborate and learn together, which can make learning fun and exciting. Creating lesson plans that have students create Facebook profiles for significant historical figures or seeing a 3-D, web-based version of a bee pollinating flowers will be much more meaningful to students than reading slides off a PowerPoint. Additionally, having the opportunity to showcase internet and overall technology skills will foster student engagement.

Liane Wardlow, Ph.D. writes that students can use different means to research and create, thus establishing their preferred method of learning. Directing one’s learning is an important tool for students to learn and using technology can be an interesting way to make learning relevant in the classroom. Positive learning experiences originate from being engaged in material relevant to one’s self. This is often found by using online resources and tools.

Higher-level thinking

As educators, we are concerned about ensuring students have the opportunity to use higher-level thinking in the classroom. Bloom’s Taxonomy reminds us that higher-level thinking skills require that students apply, analyze and create something during a lesson. Application involves comparing and contrasting ideas, while analyzing encourages arguing in support or against a certain idea.

The idea of creating implies that students will produce new work about a topic or standard. While there are plenty of ways to encourage higher-level thinking, there are certainly creative ways to support these objectives using technology. Students can use tools such as Create a Graph, which can be found at the the National Center for Education Statistics’ website to create diagrams or more organized outlines to analyze. (Visit nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph.) They can also use applications such as Pear Deck or Poll Everywhere to apply what they know about a subject anonymously and can produce work that showcases newfound knowledge in online portfolios, on free websites such as Weebly.

Adaptability

Teaching is an exciting profession that requires dedication, empathy, and adaptability. In education’s ever-changing atmosphere, adaptability is needed more than ever. One of the most important tools to address change is the creative incorporation of technology into instruction. The rapid advancement of technology means that teachers need to constantly adapt to new circumstances and be prepared to integrate new apps and programs in lesson plans and curricula. Adaptability, especially when applying technology skills, greatly benefits our students.

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