Technology is everywhere. It’s in our homes, at work and, more recently, in our classrooms. In the home it is used for anything the user so desires. At work technology is used to increase productivity and expand opportunities. In the classroom neither of these strategies is particularly effective. A student placed in front of a computer and simply told to “go” would be no more effective than if the sole reason for technology in the classroom is to complete more worksheets faster. Instead classroom integration must occur as an extension of pre-existing goals and objectives within the classroom.
The website Route 21 details a framework for 21st century learning that incorporates 4 main objectives when integrating technology into the classroom. While each objective is as important as the next, I felt that it was more useful to focus on learning and innovation skills to examine the inherent benefits and opportunities when using technology in the classroom. There are three areas of focus within learning and innovation skills: creativity & innovation, critical thinking & problem solving and communication & collaboration. As you can see these skills are not unique to technology but technology offers new ways of developing these skills in interesting ways.
Technology enhances creative thinking because it facilitates risk taking and refinement. Students have the opportunity to change things on the fly or completely erase something without fear of “starting all over again.” Critical thinking and problem solving is enhanced by technology because it offers the exploration of complex systems which would be impossible to experience. Imagine the difference between reading about the human body and observing a model versus interacting with a model online. Students can manipulate the environment or control various functions in ways that help them make comprehensive judgements and decisions. Technology gives unprecedented opportunities to communicate and collaborate in a classroom, and educational, setting. Effective technology integration would utilize the communicative powers of the internet by allowing students to share thoughts, ideas and questions with their peers and teacher online. Group work can be hidden within social websites that students are already familiar with. Students participating in a facebook group created for a school project will be doing homework but from within the structure of facebook the task becomes manageable and, perhaps, even fun.