Practical & Creative Ideas for Technology-Integrated Classrooms
As technology becomes a foundation for Generation Z, teachers struggle to balance its usage within their classrooms. They must make difficult decisions — and be able to defend them to their principals — about cell phones, laptops, online resources, and the ever-changing tech available to the youngest generation. While much of the research supports using technology, many teachers avoid it because they lack the resources to learn how to optimize it in class. The following includes ideas on how to incorporate cell phones, laptops, online resources, and new technology in a classroom.
If a school does not have a no-cellphone policy, instead of banning them from the classroom (resulting in students finding sneaky ways to text), have students keep their cellphones on the corner of their desk and use them for quick fact-checks, calculations, and definitions. This works well for two reasons. Firstly, it discourages them from picking their phones up for social reasons because they cannot hide it. Secondly, it teaches them how to use their phone as an educational tool and allows them to develop the habit of using their phones for these purposes. Leading educational scholars Blanche O’Bannon and Kevin Thomas recommend using cell-phones this way. Teachers benefit, too, because students can quickly search for information rather than raising their hand each time, resulting in less pauses during lectures.
If laptops are available, utilizing them in the classroom opens up a world of possibilities. In a speech class, students could record their speech on a voice recording program, allowing them to listen to themselves for pacing and enunciation. With video-editing software, students could re-cut trailers of Romeo and Juliet to better match their interpretation of the play. Aside from the obvious, such as using word processors to write papers, students can explore tracking data and creating graphs with spreadsheets. Presentation or slide-show programs could be used for in-class scene acting with shadow puppets. Allowing students to use technology creatively will both provide them with opportunities to engage with content and to practice skills needed in a technologically dependent workforce.
With cell phones and laptops already in the classroom, online resources provide inexpensive alternatives to heavy textbooks and excessive printing. Instead of lugging around a textbook with one limited perspective, students can explore 1984 themes on educational resource websites and synthesize what they learn there with what they learn in the classroom. Teachers fear that students rely too heavily on these online sources, often substituting them for the actual reading. Teachers can mitigate this fear by incorporating reading checks and encouraging students to use these sources as supplements. Students have begun using online document-sharing during lectures to take notes and clarify information for other students, keeping themselves engaged with the content and each other. If a teacher struggles to communicate a topic, online educational videos can supplement lecture and provide alternative perspectives.
New and Emerging Technology
While it may not be possible to predict what new technology Gen Z will latch onto next, ensuring that teachers incorporate emerging technology is made easier by focusing on a student-centered model of teaching. Teachers should engage with their students about what technology they are using and how, and have students brainstorm ways to incorporate what they know with what they are learning. Students can produce films more easily than ever with smartphones, as one French director did. Popular photography applications could be used to create a new form of storytelling, where students could experiment with how to retell classics like the Odyssey in the modern world.
As technology becomes ubiquitous in society, its integration into the classroom is imminent. Teachers must learn how to use technology as a tool for learning, rather than allowing it to become a tool for distraction. These suggestions serve as starting points as teachers make the plunge into creating a modern classroom for the next generation.