A recent study by the Academy of Management Journal found that people who pursue careers they treat as callings have particularly high rates of burning out from emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. They feel a sense of obligation or moral duty to make a positive social difference in their work, and tend to go “beyond the call of duty.” It should come as no surprise that the teaching profession fits this description—many teachers expend vast emotional resources on their students and careers, and this kind of devotion can be time-consuming and financially draining.
Additionally, large class sizes, ever-changing teacher evaluation processes, and high-stakes assessments are adding even more pressure to teachers’ overflowing workloads. In particular, formative assessment, a range of formal and informal assessment procedures, is in high demand for its power to collect information about what students are learning while they’re learning it. Many believe that teachers should then use what they learned about performance to adjust their instruction to meet students’ needs. While some teachers may be naturally skilled at doing this, it’s not necessarily an easy or straightforward task.
Plain and simple, with an increasing number of challenges on the horizon, our teachers need more—more time, more tools, and more resources—to be able to meet the demands of school boards, administrators, parents, and the state and federal government. And with these high demands, it’s imperative for teachers to make the most of their time in the classroom.
A Brief History of Technology in the Classroom
Over the past two centuries, various technologies have come into the classroom to help teachers overcome challenges, balance their day-to-day duties, and enhance the learning experience for all students. In 1870, there was the Magic Lantern, a more primitive version of a slide projector. Then 1890 brought us the chalkboard, and 1900 welcomed us to the 20th century with the pencil. The overhead projector popped up in 1930, videotapes in the 1950s, and then the Scantron® testing system in the 1970s. In 1993, the Internet was made available for commercial use, and by 2009, 97% of classrooms had at least one computer.
Despite the rate at which technology has been advancing, even the best technology cannot replace teachers, nor does it intend to. Just like the chalkboard and overhead projector, modern technology is joining the classroom not to compete with teachers, but rather to serve as the teacher’s companion—a supportive aide that helps make the day a little bit easier.
Technology Enhances Teaching and Learning
George Couros, educator and author of The Innovator’s Mindset, says, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.” We know this because we see that having access to so many different types of data on student performance enhances the relationships between teachers and students. By using adaptive technology, teachers can gauge how each student is learning and then adjust instruction appropriately—formative assessment at its finest. This means they can focus more time and attention on reteaching topics or concepts students are struggling with, or providing additional opportunities to students who have already demonstrated mastery of grade-level skills.
And when technology can actually adjust the level of instruction, support, and practice each student receives, even more time is freed up for teachers to provide personalized attention to individuals or small groups. Technology can also help teachers identify students who may be at risk, and intervene early to prevent learning gaps from forming or growing.
Teaching Students to Use Technology Responsibility
However, while it’s great to have access to digital devices in the classroom, students will always need to be taught how to use technology correctly and appropriately. These skills do not come naturally, and students can’t learn how to use technology from a device if they don’t know how to use the device in the first place. Learning the basics is vital, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to using technology. It’s equally as important to incorporate digital citizenship into lessons around technology in the classroom to help students build digital literacy skills, which they’ll need even beyond school. Establishing rules around technology use and modeling appropriate online behavior will ultimately help students become better digital citizens both inside and outside the classroom.
When teachers have tools that can supplement classroom lessons and provide ample data on student performance, they have more time to personalize instruction for each student. And when your classroom technology continuously adapts based on each student’s understanding, you can ensure they’re receiving the right level of instruction, support, and practice they need to master grade-level skills.
Technology is not intended to replace teachers; it is here to help them transform their classrooms, students, and the future.