Teachers, Students Use Technology in School to Increase Learning Experiences 

Teachers, Students Use Technology in School to Increase Learning Experiences 

Shar’ron Wiggins remembers fearing the worst.

Her son’s school had given all seventh grade students an iPad and the Euclid mother was worried. She recalls wondering if an overreliance on the device would make the kids lazy thinkers incapable of conducting meaningful research.

“I immediately began thinking about whether the daily use of computers in school would enable video game and Internet addictions,”  Wiggins says. “Then, I felt the iPads would make school less challenging by taking away the students’ ability to find things out on their own. 

After all, when she was a student, the educational journey was as valuable as the destination. 

“I remember when I was in school, I had to dig for research, and because there was no way of getting an instant answer, I learned five other things along the way of finding the information I needed,” she says.  

Wiggins is not alone, of course, as technology has proliferated and become increasingly embedded in the educational experiences of children of nearly all ages. As such, making sense of technology use in the classroom — iPads, Google Docs, virtual reality, learning management tools — can be a challenge for many parents.  

School districts, meanwhile, charged with preparing students to be college and career ready, know that  technology is ubiquitous in today’s world. 

Compounding things for both: technology is rapidly evolving and constant innovation means today’s solution might quickly become obsolete. 

According to Dr. Annette Kratcoski, director of the Research Center for Educational Technology at Kent State University, students need to develop an expertise with a wide range of technology and must be able to handle change to function in a digital world. She says school districts are feeling pressure to be able to invest in digital tools so that they can provide those experiences needed for the real world, while maintaining a focus on educational benefits.

“The challenge with integrating technology into classrooms used to be access and cost,”  Kratcoski says. “Now, the technology is so affordable and accessible, so the challenge is beyond providing students exposure to technology. It’s now helping teachers utilize technology in meaningful ways that enhance the learning.” 

Whether they are physical devices like iPads or online tools like Google Docs, educators are apt to embrace the technology that helps student performance. Kratcoski says Google Docs — a cloud-based mimic of Microsoft Word that features many collaborative features — may appear to be just a quick delivery method or productivity tool to help students be more efficient, but if used purposefully, teachers can tap into the real power of the tool and use it to develop students’ critical thinking abilities and collaboration skills.

Google Classroom apps are especially helpful when Menlo Park Academy students work on collaborative projects in small groups. (Photos courtesy of Menlo Park Academy)

Amanda Conti, seventh and eighth grade English teacher at Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland, says her students use Google’s online suite of programs every day — many of which replicate existing programs like Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel — to unlock opportunities that those traditionally desktop-bound programs simply don’t have.

“My students regularly use Google Chrome, Google Docs or Google Slides,”  Conti says. “We collaborate with schools across the country, [schools] in Canada and even in China. We collaborate on book discussions or projects. The technology enables the collaboration and allows the students to get different perspectives on the different themes in the books.”

Daniel Pernod, fifth and sixth grade social studies teacher at Menlo Park Academy, says there are many creative ways to use technology as a means to enhance learning in the classroom.

“For example, if we are discussing Taj Mahal, I’d have my students pull it up on their Chromebooks and then take a virtual tour — they can walk through the hallways — or we’d use our virtual reality sets to visit the location,” he says. “And just recently, the students had a lesson on longitude and latitudes, typically a boring subject. But we took all of them to Put-in-Bay and engaged them in geocaching, which uses a GPS system to find hidden boxes. We hid several boxes with different coordinates around the island.  The students had to use the technology to locate the coordinates in order to find the boxes.”

Students in schools across Northeast Ohio agree that technology is having a positive impact on their learning.  

Timothy McKinney, a student at Normandy High School in Parma, says the use of technology in the classroom has flipped his whole learning experience. Regardless of parent concerns or teacher buy-in, students like McKinney have no qualms about technology in the classroom.  

“The technology involved us more and gave us the opportunity to express ourselves,” he says. “We were able to do more independent work and it strengthened our collaborations. We have been able to do better presentations. My generation is more technology-based, so giving us a chance to learn through it is natural and comfortable.” 

In the February 2020 printed version of this article, Amanda Conti teacher at Menlo Park Academy name was misspelled. We apologize for this error. 

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