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In the 2024 K-12 Horizon Report, the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) explore short- and long-term trends in education, with a focus on how current and emerging technology in education will change learning in years to come. The report reveals that after many years of integrating technology into the classroom, the changes needed to make it effective in improving education are finally being enacted.
Redesigning Learning Spaces
As pedagogy has shifted so that teachers move throughout the classroom while students work in groups and practice hands-on learning, the design of the traditional classroom is also changing. Citing research by the University of Washington and the University of Melbourne, the Horizon Report reveals that the design of classrooms and school buildings can positively affect student learning, and many of these changes can be easily implemented. Using movable furniture that allows students to group naturally as they work enhances learning, and mobile technologies can travel with students and teachers as they move about. Small changes to lighting, temperature and decoration are also shown to improve learning.
As schools plan for facility replacements and upgrades, they can integrate more open learning and gathering spaces, and provide more mobility and internet connectivity, ensuring that future generations will have the flexibility needed to create learning environments that work. The Horizon Report notes that schools in Australia, Denmark and Peru have already created these types of environments and have used them to integrate more student-led, hands-on learning activities.Increase Student Engagement With Technology
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Rethinking How Schools Work
As schools change their methods of delivering education, they’ll also change their structure. Regimented days with strict bell schedules will be replaced with fluid strategies that more accurately mirror both the working world of the 21st century and the needs of its highly social, interactive and technology-focused students. Many of the redesigns we’ve already seen in classrooms will help foster these types of environments, but the systemic changes to how students collaborate with their teachers and peers will be much more important. We can help this process by leveraging emerging technology in education like collaborative learning tools that allow teachers to work with each other and with outside experts to plan and manage long-term interdisciplinary projects. Mobile devices like tablets will give students access to the subject-matter information they need when they need it, and learning management and assessment tools can help teachers and administrators ensure that students are progressing in each grade level.
Improving Technology Education
To help prepare students for future employment in a world where technology literacy is a critical skill, many schools are striving to make computer programming a larger part of their curriculum. One powerful way to do this is to attach programming tasks to non-computer science subjects. For example, students can use Scratch, a programming language designed for adolescents, to create an app that solves a particular math equation or tells an interactive story based on a work of literature they’ve been reading. The Horizon Report includes examples of schools in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom that are using this type of interdisciplinary approach to teaching programming outside of computer science classes.
These long-term trends are exciting, but they will require a lot of planning and collaboration among teachers, administrators, state and federal leaders, parents and community members. We can all follow this research as more school systems try new ways of learning, then work together to implement the best practices in our own school environments.
Teachers are increasingly using podcasts as a way to increase student engagement and incorporate more technology in the classroom.
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High school students often work together, but do they really get to know each other? These strategies foster deeper relationships.
In a positive learning environment, students lift one another up and create an atmosphere where it is the norm to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, and learn collaboratively. In order to set the stage for this type of environment, students not only need a good relationship with their teacher, they need to feel connected to their peers.
But building peer-to-peer relationships can be challenging in high school, where many students engage only with their core friend group or keep to themselves. Plus, in the aftermath of the pandemic, some students find being around their peers more stressful than working online.
Since I sometimes have classes of more than 30 students, circle times and individual check-ins aren’t always feasible. That’s why I came up with different strategies to intentionally build student connections, five of which I’ll share with you here.
A Daily Question on a Whiteboard
I use this strategy to greet my students at the door, where I welcome them and remind them to answer the question. I tend to start off with questions about lighter topics, such as softball, but as students become more comfortable with me and each other, I’ll ask deeper ones (see below for examples).
Students always have the option to pass, but I’ve found that if it’s a good question, students will look forward to answering and reading their peers’ responses. As much as possible, I refrain from saying anything about the answers. Instead, I ask one student to read their top three, sharing what resonates for them.
This activity allows the whiteboard to become a student space. I set it up, but learners take ownership over their engagement. As the year unfolds, they even come up with prompt questions on their own.
The following are some examples of daily questions I’ve used:
Would you rather be the youngest, middle, or oldest sibling?
Which emoji best describes your current mood?
Draw a sea creature.
Draw a plant that represents you.
Name one person you can rely on in school.
What does it mean to be a good friend?
These are examples of student-generated questions:
What colors would you assign the four cores: ELA, math, science, and history?
What’s the last (appropriate) text you sent, no context?
Your most-played song of 2023?
Which school lunch option is top-tier?
100 French fries or 100 Hot Pockets?
Walk and Talk
Another relationship-building strategy, “Walk and Talk,” invites students to connect with two peers and answer questions geared toward social connection before engaging with curricular content.
The first person a student connects with should be someone whom they feel comfortable with and speak to often, and the second person should be someone with whom they rarely interact.
At first, I give a lower-stakes personal question, such as, “What was the last thing you watched on YouTube?” The second question I ask relates to our class, usually “What did we do last class?” or “Based on the agenda, what do you think we will be doing today?”
As the year goes on, students tend to group up and ask if they can talk in groups of four—proof that relationship building really is at play. This is a good way to have students review what was done in the last class and prepare them for what’s coming next.
It can be especially helpful to structure a relationship-building activity at the beginning of the year, when new students enter the class, or when students return from school breaks. Tiered mini-interviews involve small, teacher-selected groups of students who engage in the following steps.
First, give students a worksheet that asks them to categorize how well they feel they know their peers using four tiers: (1) Peers I’m comfortable with, (2) peers I know but don’t speak with often, (3) peers for whom I only know first names, and (4) peers whose names I don’t know.
With the last tier, students don’t write down names; instead, they seek out those students and introduce themselves. This portion of the activity can be modified as students get to know each other better; however, each year, I’ve found that it’s common for several students to not know many of their peers’ first names, so instead of a traditional interview where students are randomly assigned or pick their partners, I find it helpful to be intentional about asking students to seek out classmates with whom to build new relationships.
Digital quizzes are an engaging way to start a class when students return from a school break or need a pause from curricular content before a review or final. The goal here is to create questions that most of the students would be able to answer correctly.
Creating digital quizzes does take time at first, because they comprise a question related to each student in the class, but they’re always a worthy endeavor. They are also a self-check, because they allow me to check my knowledge of each student and to follow up with learners whom I realize I don’t know much about.
In these quizzes, I mainly format questions as true or false that are related to something that should be general knowledge about the student—for example, “Mahina has a twin” or “Kose is in the Arts and Communications Academy.”
As I learn more about students and we build rapport, I occasionally slip in class jokes, a question about myself, and more nuanced questions, which show how well we know each other.
Many free online quiz websites allow you to make the quiz live so that students can see their scores in real time, adding a bit of energy and competition to this classroom strategy.
Memorizing first and last names
At the start of the year, we can all use a bit of support as we learn students’ first and last names. An activity that I find very beneficial, especially for students who are in ninth and 10th grades, invites learners to start by memorizing the names of everyone at their table.
Together, they practice writing each other’s names and saying them aloud in the first few days of class. Then, we slowly expand to the whole group. By the end of the quarter, I have everyone stand in a circle and say or write their peers’ names. Because students often memorize the order of names and not the faces that go with them, as the year progresses, I mix up the tables and have students memorize new first and last names.
This activity helps us all learn how to properly pronounce and spell the names of everyone in class. I don’t do this activity every year, but I’ve noticed that when I skip it, there’s less of a class bond.
Positive Peer Relationships Support Student Performance
Positive peer relationships, such as those fostered using the activities above, engender a sense of belonging and a culture of excellence. They also allow students space to feel seen and heard, which impacts student performance. Being intentional about building relational capacity throughout the school year doesn’t take much effort but reaps many benefits in and beyond the classroom.
Sunday, I camped out at the 9th Annual International Symposium of CoSN, also known as the Consortium of School Networking , in Washington, D.C., and learned a ton from an A-list of international education innovators. Listening to folks from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, as well as some of our own American leading lights, I came away understanding, with ever more precision, how essential technology will be to educating students chúng tôi how this tech-enabled education has the potential to prepare students for what will likely be a great challenge and reward in their adult lives: to work collaboratively across borders in an innovation-driven, global economy. That is, of course, if those of us in the most powerful and wealthy countries don’t screw it up. And, happily, there are more than a few indicators that at least some of those nations are determined not to do so.
Some highlights and some links you can check out:
The keynote speaker was a man named Francesc Pedró, a senior policy analyst with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in France. (OECD is developing tests for measuring critical thinking, problem solving, and other 21st-century skills. These tests could be a model for the way standardized testing in the U.S. could change. Here is an OECD link, not the sexiest website in the world but. . .)
Pedro’s talk was wide ranging. On the loaded topic of learning assessment, he said something that stuck with me. Technology, he explained, is not the most powerful driver of education reform. Assessment is. Because assessment represents the values of our society, those things that we hold dear that ought to form the core of what we teach children. Technology, he said, should enable the process.
Pedro and other speakers also called out a social media tool worth checking out. (Caveat: it is mostly for European educators.) But it will inspire anyone who is looking to link their classroom efforts with those of another teacher and class in another country. It’s called eTwinning and it’s being used by more than 80,000 teachers on more than 36,000 learning projects, involving more than 18 million students. Lots of inspiration and smart, simple ideas there.
Sasha Connors, a teacher from Burlington County, NJ shared some of her efforts to connect her students to peers in India and Afghanistan via Web 2.0 tools like Skype. Connors’s students read their poems and essays to their counterparts and, as she tells it, were transformed by the praise and feedback they got from their Indian and Afgahn peers. Suddenly, interest, enthusiasm and hard work in class and at home, all began to rise. Discussion of Islam, dating, marriage, and the de-bunking of stereotypes (all Americans are not over-weight and infatuated with violence) energized kids on both sides, far more, she reports, than their more traditional studies.
Ken Kay from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills took a moment to distill what he thought the essential 21st century skills would become in the future: 1) the ability to accommodate change and 2) to work in concert on global teams. Interesting, when you think about the long list of virtues touted as “21st Century skills.”
Just about every speaker agreed that the world faces a host of challenges in reforming education: human issues, technological issues, finance issues, language issues. And everyone agreed that the human issues (national prejudices, fears, long-held habits and customs) are and will be the hardest to solve. And everyone agreed that technology would be among the least difficult.
Michael Trucano of the World Bank said that without technology it would be impossible to make a meaningful dent in the inequity issues that plague education reform around the world. He cited his organization’s commitment to enabling a decent primary education for every child in the world by the year 2024 — impossible without technology, especially 2.0 tools.
There was lots of talk about understanding the role of technology in learning. Some call it an indispensable tool, an enabler, a required utility. The interpretation offered up by Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Dept of Education, captured my imagination. Think of technology as an environment, the eco-system in which education unfolds.
We, Americans, can get caught up in our national cocoon, living in a big, well-to-do nation, we come by it naturally. Yet I walked away from Sunday’s symposium reminded how swiftly our nation’s fortunes will change for the worse (already we are losing ground by the day) if we don’t embrace efforts to reform the learning process and listen and learn from our global neighbors as we go. What did Darwin say? It’s not the strongest who survive, or the smartest. . . but those who adapt best to change.
— David Markus, Edutopia’s editorial director
Over the next generation, whether they work for corporations, small businesses, government organizations, nonprofits, or other organizations, many U.S. employees will move from working primarily with American colleagues, bosses, and customers for American organizations in U.S. cities, to being part of global teams. As leaders, they will use technology to bridge geographic divides, build organizations that transcend borders, and work together with colleagues from around the world on issues such as climate change, food security, and population growth — issues that require multinational teams coming together to effect change.
For those whose work is closer to home, the changing demographics of the U.S. will mean that their colleagues, customers, and neighbors may look a lot less like them, and have fewer shared histories than American colleagues, customers, and neighbors have shared in the past.
The challenges today’s students will face as tomorrow’s leaders will involve working more closely across geographic borders, and with people who have very different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. In short, diversity and global citizenship are our common future.
Will our children be ready, and is the education they’re receiving today preparing them for the world they’ll inherit in a decade or two? Skills that globally competent students will require to successfully navigate college, career, and life in the 21st century include:
An appreciation for cultural differences
An ability to understand and consider multiple perspectives
Critical and comparative thinking skills
Comfort with ambiguity and change
An understanding of globally significant issues
Based on our work with more than 2,000 U.S. middle and high school educators on building global competence, following are five core strategies that we’ve seen educators adopt to effectively create the classroom of the future – a classroom that will build the necessary skills for educating globally competent students, and truly prepare them to thrive as responsible global citizens in the 21st century.1. Leverage real-world case studies.
It’s highly empowering to middle and high school students when we ground pedagogy and curriculum in case studies of significant global issues that have local impact, and use them to encourage self-directed learning. Here are examples of three case studies — one on drought and desertification in Burkina Faso, one on water issues in Bolivia, and a third on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Leveraging this kind of material and encouraging students to think deeply and creatively about implications, parallels in their own community, and how they can affect change builds strong critical thinking skills and global context. For additional resources, check out National Geographic Education’s case studies, such as this one on critical issues facing marine ecosystems, or its Current Event Connection page.2. Dig into, rather than avoid, the complexity.
Teachers in classrooms that actively build global competence encourage students to wrestle with the complexity of an issue, then design and implement solutions based on the students’ own research. This helps students build an appreciation for the challenges of addressing both global and community issues. A teacher who challenges and encourages students to be comfortable with changing environments and circumstances simulates the realities of our deeply dynamic world. While this can be disconcerting, when coupled with helping students understand that even small actions can have a significant impact, it can be hugely empowering.3. Regularly practice empathy.
An environment that places a high value on seeking out and leveraging a diversity of perspectives, particularly those with perspectives that are controversial or significantly different from the students’ own, helps them build their “empathy muscles.” A great resource for educators to consult is Ashoka’s Start Empathy program, which includes an online course and supporting materials.4. Use technology to enhance learning and empower students.
Students today have the incredible benefit of using technology not only to access new ideas and global perspectives, but also to personalize and take control of their learning. Every day there are new technology resources available to help educators make their classrooms more global and connect their students to new ideas, challenges, and resources that will let them dig deeper into what they’re learning in class. Sorting through all of these resources could be a full-time job, so consider these technology resources to support and challenge your students, and to build on your current curriculum:
In addition, here’s a great Education World blog post on learning world geography.5. Ensure that reflection is part of routine.
Reflection is regularly cited as a critical and important component of classroom learning. When it becomes routinized is when educators and students see the most benefit from it. Structured and frequent reflection, which students do both on their own and with each other, helps them apply learnings to future work. Consider these thinking and reflection routines from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero.
Building the classroom of the future — a more globally competent, student-centered learning space that engages diverse learners — has been given a boost by recent developments, including the Department of Education’s International Strategy (2012-16) (PDF), outlining global competence as a key pillar of quality education; and plans for the PISA assessments to include global competence in 2023. These represent an important shift to a mindset where this type of learning is offered not just intermittently, but ultimately valued and given high-level priority as something that’s fundamental to learning.
As you consider these five strategies, how close is your classroom, or your child’s classroom, to being a classroom of the future?
Educators spend their time preparing for class with a long list of thought work:
Creating notes and assignments
Making materials look appealing to increase student engagement
Adding elements to lessons that make the material more fun or accessible
Professional development training often offers tips on how to do the above tasks more efficiently. And certainly, AI is a new way to do that.
Not all AI is text and image generation. You may have already been using AI in some daily tasks without realizing it. For example, the newest Samsung Interactive Display contains features like handwriting recognition, graphic recognition, smart search, and smart shapes. These tools can empower educators and students to work more efficiently in a classroom setting.Blended learning without limits
Simple, scalable and secure display solutions empower educators to take control of curriculum. Download NowThe big challenges of AI in writing
Data privacy is another issue when it comes to using AI. Growing concern over the data needed for AI algorithms to function effectively may lead to a moratorium on student use of this technology until we can verify data privacy. The best practice for educators concerned about protecting their data would be to access these tools using credentials not tied to their school or their students’ information.Asking the right questions
As educators and students become comfortable with AI in their daily workflow, it is essential to focus on clear and specific tasks for AI to complete. Clarity is the first hurdle that students may encounter as they turn to AI for tutorials or quick answers. You must first be able to communicate what you need. The more organized your thoughts are, the better the results will be. As an educator, ask ChatGPT to generate questions on a topic that utilizes the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and you will not regret it.
AI was designed to recognize keywords and patterns, so users should play to its strengths. With this in mind, there are many ways AI can help you with thought work as you prepare for class. AI can create:
Differentiated questions and activities
Summaries of texts, notes, or videos for review or support
Annotations for a text considering specific criteria such as theme, tone, imagery
Further explanation of concepts
Word problems and step-by-step instructions for solving them
Counterpoints to help qualify a position
Virtual field trips
Book club activitiesAI writing tools that can help
New tools are popping up daily, and I am particularly excited about a few. As an English teacher, I gravitate toward applications that would significantly impact my classroom by saving time, differentiating lesson materials, or providing students with instant feedback.
Curipod is an educator tool for lesson and slide creation, interactive engagement for students, and AI-generated feedback to student responses.
Grammarly is a writing aid and grammar check tool that students and professionals have long used to ensure clear and concise writing, but they recently added GrammarlyGO for text generation help.
YouTube Summary is a Chrome extension that provides a transcript and summary of YouTube videos and websites.
Speechify is a Chrome extension that provides AI-powered text-to-speech of any website, offering a variety of voices and speeds.
Readwise Reader is an app in beta testing that enables users to organize and prioritize a variety of documents and texts. The AI can rephrase complex language and aid in the comprehension and processing of information. Students could use it to keep up with assignments from all classes in one place.
The Samsung Education team works diligently to support the educator community, offering in-person professional development and additional support year-round. And discover the full range of Samsung Interactive Displays, all designed for more engaging and visually enhanced collaboration in the classroom.
A look at how maker education is assessed—and how assessment is evolving to measure more than just content.
On the surface, maker education looks like a lot of fun—young people tinker with materials, take things apart, make things light up, design and build things, etc. It’s messy, a little scattered.
Dig a bit deeper, and those actions of play reveal quite a lot of thinking, processing, and meaning-making. Manipulating materials helps us understand how to best use them, how they can be altered or used differently; taking things apart or making things light up allows us to examine the made world, helps us form connections between what we see and what’s just below, and presents the possibility of discovering or creating something anew; and designing and building asks us to understand the products, structures, voices, and systems around us, find an opportunity to improve or change, test our assumptions, and more.
Along the way, students learn to use scissors, screwdrivers, software, sewing needles, and saws. They share their ideas, findings, and mistakes. They apply their new knowledge to new creations. They read and comprehend instruction manuals and write out ideas. They discover expertise and interest.
How Do We Assess the Learning Outcomes?
The joy and engagement inherent in making are undeniable, but we also want to be clear about the overall learning outcomes of maker education, which is where assessment plays a crucial role.
Assessing maker education allows us to point to evidence and practices that support learning to be more meaningful. It also allows teaching to be more youth-centered, and young people to have more agency in their learning. And assessing maker education asks us to consider a student’s growth and evolution over time.
We know that maker education looks wildly different from one spot to the next, and currently, the assessment of maker education reflects that as well. Some educators don’t assess their maker-oriented activities and projects at all. Others attempt to put a grade to the content knowledge developed or the technical skills but don’t explicitly grade the context (the project, the tinkering, the collaboration). Some look solely at the finished products while others focus on the process of learning, in addition to or instead of the final finished product (asking questions such as “Were there observable actions that indicated collaboration, iteration, etc?”).
Soft skills—such as agency, problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity—are a critical outcome of maker education, and there are models for identifying and thinking about them. For example, the Exploratorium Tinkering Studio has developed the Learning Dimensions of Making and Tinkering Framework, which identifies dimensions such as “Initiative and Intentionality” and “Creativity and Self-Expression.” And Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh developed the Learning Practices of Making, which include such practices as “Inquire,” “Seek and Share Resources,” and “Hack and Repurpose.”
To be clear, a drive toward focusing on these soft skills doesn’t mean that content knowledge or conceptual understanding is excluded—it just means that all of the skills are equally important and form a foundation and context for understanding and applying content knowledge. As gatekeepers to colleges and careers open up doors and “are looking for more effective ways to recognize an array of student accomplishments,” as a report by the Learning Policy Institute notes, we see a rising acknowledgement that deep learning and thinking skills matter more than memorized facts.
A number of ongoing research projects are looking at what aspects of the learning in school-based maker environments should be assessed, and how to assess them. In one, Agency by Design, 30 educators from 20 organizations come together once a month to discuss the assessment and documentation of maker-based learning experiences. They focus on what they value in student learning and engagement, and what constitutes evidence for what they value.
In the project Beyond Rubrics: Moving Towards Embedded Assessment in Maker Education—led by MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab in partnership with my organization, Maker Ed—we like to think of assessment as ongoing, performance-based, multidimensional, flexible, playful, and embedded. We’re envisioning new assessment tools that go beyond rubrics and can be embedded within maker-centered classrooms. These tools, currently in development, allow students and teachers to seamlessly collect evidence related to competencies and skills such as agency, troubleshooting, and risk-taking. We see maker projects, as well as teachers and students, as critical components of embedded assessment too.
The tools we’re developing allow students to self-assess and reflect on their work at numerous moments and support using makerspace processes and products—not quizzes or tests—as artifacts to assess. Students can support and assess one another’s efforts, skills, and contributions, and teachers can bake in opportunities for developing agency, risk-taking, creativity, and more. Formative and summative assessments go hand-in-hand; the sum of many formative assessments—which capture moments in time—can and should tell the story of a learner’s abilities and growth.
We’re asking teachers to articulate, for instance, what collaboration looks like and sounds like. Teachers are always attuned to the behaviors of their students and commonly already recognize innately and intuitively moments of learning and development. They also recognize students’ change over time.
Rethinking How We Record Learning
So how does the shift in how we value learning, what we define as learning, and how we assess learning link up with the system of test scores, grades, and transcripts?
They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Transcripts can look different than they currently do, and there are efforts, such as the Mastery Transcript Consortium, to redesign and rethink them. The use of grades, test scores, and traditional rubrics can be redesigned to reflect the learning of the whole child, and performance-based assessments such as capstone projects and portfolios can connect to traditional transcripts and supplement them.
We’re eagerly revisiting and updating assessment to be as open-ended, participatory, authentic, agentic, and playful as maker education itself.
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