The Future is in the Classroom in More Ways Than One

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An in-depth look at the role that technology plays in the classroom and its importance. Special thanks to my sisters, Hillary and Heidi, for arranging the interviews that led to some stellar quotes from the great folks at Oak Hammock Middle School. My final Journalistic Writing story of the semester:


Time travel, children, and technology – all terms that come to mind when one thinks of the future. Although we haven’t reached time travel yet, a combination of the latter two have led to innovations that have paved the way for progress as a society. Where do children and technology meet to form this powerful duo? The classroom.

In recent years, technology has come a long way in regard to integration with education. Gone are the days of blackboards and chalk. Instead, we live in a SMART Board and Chromebook society. For some involved parties, this is a major culture change that features a steep learning curve. For others, use of these new available technologies is as natural as brushing teeth. Although there are varying comfort levels among those at school using technology, they all recognize the same basic truth: technology in the classroom is vital to continuing to guide the youth through their education.

“The only real technology we had was projectors and document cameras,” said Oak Hammock Middle School Principal, Jennifer McMillan. She’s been an administrator for nine years, and the equipment situation was vastly different from before her promotion to administration. This speaks to how far we’ve come in around the last decade. After she became an administrator, she began to see the modern wave of technology start to flow in to the classroom. She also recognized the cycle of waves that schools ride; from blackboards to response systems to SMART Boards to whatever is next.

Technology phases in and out, but only when met with its successor. In regard to response systems for in-class quizzes, “Those responders became non-existent. We give it back to Downtown, and they just recycle it,” said the administrator. Although it would seem that the emergence of new technologies would lead to growing costs, McMillan stated that the budget is the largely same; it’s just allotted differently.

“People think I’m weird because I actually come to school to learn and see what’s new” -L.P-C.

“I think there needs to be a balance between traditional paper and pencil and technology,” said McMillan, and this view is actually shared by some students. “People start being lazy about [school work]; sometimes it’s better to do it on paper,” said 8th grade student, L. Palacios-Chavez. “People think I’m weird because I actually come to school to learn and see what’s new,” she said.

Palacios-Chavez swears that she has this focused view toward school, but inevitably, not all of her peers are as focused. This raises one of the primary issues of utilizing technology in the classroom. “Usually, when [the teacher] gets away from the desk we get right back into our games,” said 6th grader, J. Maldonado. Among all the students, there are varying levels of distraction. How do teachers balance this issue? “I walk around . . . Only time the kids see me walking behind a desk, they know I’m calling somebody’s mom,” said reading teacher Vinson Johnson. His patrolling and pacing around the classroom strikes fear into students, for they know a phone call home could spell the end of their fun. Other teachers use programs to monitor their students. GoGuardian is a program that teachers can use to watch all students’ screens in the classroom from their own computers to keep them on task.

“[Chromebooks can be] kind of boring because some teachers decide to block all of the cool games,” said 6th grade C. Watson. This is another way that teachers keep their students on track. Only the educational games are available, though that isn’t the worst thing in the world for students. “It’s actually pretty cool,” said Maldonado in reference to some of the math games that he gets to play in the name of education.

Teachers do have to worry about restricting their students, but technology also allows the kids to have greater freedom of speech. “I love the interactivity of [newer technology],” said long-time 8th grade teacher Tiffany Sherri. “They might feel a little more comfortable interfacing in a digital platform than in a face-to-face platform,” she added. The only trick is for teachers to learn the technology themselves before they use it. “Lincoln’s gotta be dead by Christmas,” Sherri said in reference to all of the teaching she has to do in limited time which leaves little time to learn the technology for herself.

What do we expect for the future of technology in the classroom? “A robot . . . as an assistant,” said C. Watson. Although we may not get to that point any time soon, everyone has come to the consensus that the technology we have now is at a happy medium that is essential to helping students navigate this new age of information into which we’ve been plunged.

“These kids have a completely different worldview. There’s never been a time when they didn’t have access to this information . . . I think [the influx of technology] makes it much more difficult to discern what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s true and what’s valuable,” added Sherri. By utilizing technology in the classroom, schools are allowing themselves to continue their ongoing mission to positively shape the youths of the future despite the potential effects of overflow of information.

In this sense, the duties of adults involved in education have remained the same. They’re still here to guide the youth. Instead of seeing the waves of technology swallow them, schools are using technology to help students surf through life knowing how to properly manage this new age we’ve entered.

With the help of technology, teachers, and administrators, students are paving the way toward a brighter future. With available technological advances, students aren’t alone. They are part of a new connected world that’s available to them. Even though it’s a vast world, with help and focus, they won’t have any problems navigating it.

“Technology is the great unifier” – Sherri

 

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