Technology has changed nearly every industry, and education is no exception. Within in the last decade, there have been many new and specific programs, apps, and devices designed for the classroom and higher education. And, they have been implemented somewhat unevenly throughout different regions and school districts. Improving the quality of education has always been a top priority, but simply adding technology into the equation doesn’t instantly fix the issue.
A One-Size-Fits-All Approach Tends to Negatively Effect Students
Although many education reforms have focused on test results, these approaches may not be effective for all students. In a K-12 environment, educators are often still stuck on the instructive method of teaching, which dictates that students should approach problems a particular way to reach a single result. In a higher education setting, this may show up as students being expected to take the course material from a combination of lectures and textbook reading to prepare for multiple-choice exams.
Rather than focusing on these reductive strategies that leave students behind, some educators are shifting to a more student-centric approach to differentiated learning. In fact, personalized learning has the greatest potential for promoting transformation in education. Traditional classroom methods focused on how problems were solved rather than why. There are seven primary styles of learning—aural, verbal, physical, visual, solitary, social, and logical—and only verbal learners are accommodated by traditional approaches. Hands-on learning, group work, and learning through sound and images help include more students who prefer different styles.
“Direct instruction is very ill-suited to a world characterized by change,” said Blake Thomas of eSpark Learning. “It has been endlessly observed that many or most of the jobs that students today will hold when they join the workforce don’t exist today. It is imperative then that we foster instruction that allows students to learn how to think, communicate, and collaborate effectively.”
The Current Approach Doesn’t Address the Individual
The current approach to education doesn’t address dynamism, adaptability, interaction, responsiveness, and diversity. All these skills will be crucial for modern students as they move into the modern workplace. Technology can support and enhance the development of these crucial skills. While it may not be possible under current standards, teachers may be able to create an individualized curriculum based on students’ needs when they each have their own classroom devices. Current programs present each student with the same lesson but adjust to their reading levels.
Not only does student-centered learning boost critical reasoning skills, but these strategies can help close the opportunity gap for underserved students. One-size-fits-all approaches, in addition to missing educational objectives, can take culture away from minorities. Because students learn at different paces and in different ways, a standardized curriculum can unwittingly teach students that they aren’t good at certain things, which can lead to disengagement.
According to a study from the American Institutes for Research and Nellie Mae Education Foundation, students in classrooms with differentiated approaches to learning had better outcomes in math, traditionally a subject students struggle with. Rather than simply learning how to solve equations, students learned how to apply real problem-solving skills.
Good Technology Levels the Playing Field
Many areas face inequity of access to education, which can significantly impact a students’ learning. Some regions have underfunded public schools, or students may have inadequate support at home. Students who are interested in technology may not have the resources at school to develop these critical skills. Technology can level the playing field, especially because the cost of connected devices continues to drop, making them more accessible to a larger number of people.
Technology helps close the opportunity gaps and accommodate students with different styles of learning because it can help classrooms become more student-centric. Even in schools that blend academics with workplace training that serve a majority of black and Latino students, incorporating technology can substantially boost educational outcomes. Students in these school districts had better test scores, higher graduation rates, and a higher level of completion of courses that would make them eligible for admission in state schools. Some of the boosts were accomplished with online learning programs, which improved student engagement.
About this post
This is part one of a series of posts about our Education Sector. Over the next few months, we will be exploring how best to engage with students of all levels using technology. This originally appeared in our whitepaper “Four Things You Need to Understand to Get Students to Engage with Technology in the Classroom.”