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Using technology in the classroom: help or hindrance?

Within the 21st century, the increase of the digital inspired world has led to technology and the internet becoming a fundamental element of a child’s growth, within both their educational achievement and their individual social development. Modern technology has become an extensive part of everyday life and without it the world would be radically different. Taking this into consideration, many teachers have accepted that technology is a part of society and have adapted this teaching method into their daily routine, using a variety of technological devices to contribute to their classes educational success, emphasising how the Education System is altering to fit the changing needs of children to thrive in today’s ‘digital age’. In upcoming years, the percentage of teachers using a tablet as a teaching strategy may increase if schools begin to comprehend with the changing society.

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Throughout my experience, I have witnessed a huge number of beneficial elements in regards to using technology within the classroom. Throughout the school day, an extensive proportion of the children’s learning was based around the use of IPads and technological devices. The children had IPads provided to them on a one to one basis, something which is becoming highly conventional within the education system. The technology input in everyday life is becoming more persistent within schools across the country, as more schools .The Increase in children having access to devices such as IPads allows children from any background, both social or ethical, to have equal and frequent contact using technology. The increase in technology has enabled teachers to become aware of the opportunity to differentiate their instruction and change their classrooms into dynamic learning environments, displaying how perhaps the norm of pen and paper is on the decrease due to this new and updated way of teaching. I observed this in my own teaching practice, particularly as a large proportion of pupil progress and attainment data was monitored through the IPad. A large number of applications were used throughout the school day to record data, to self-assess work and recording pupils individual progress, benefitting both students and staff. The use of technology by teachers could impact the task of marking books within future practice, as this perhaps may be replaced with all aspects of marking and pupil progress being completed by using technology, with no writing needed.

The era of technology has developed applications which can now accomplish essentially anything. Applications such as Socrative, Explain Everything and Seesaw are among several tools to guide the children with instruction on what the upcoming lesson will entail.  Students can now look at their grades and even turn in their homework over the web, reinforcing the idea that technology is becoming a necessity to the everyday functioning of the classroom. These multimedia tools have become cheaper to produce and more accessible to users, they have shown to be a positive effect on students understanding (Chambers, Cheung, Madden, Slavin & Gifford, 2006; So & Kong, 2007, Kendeou, Bon-Gettler, White & Van der Broel; 2008), emphasising perhaps the reason that schools are using more technology is due to the declining price attached. This idea is supported many theorists, one in particular by that of Hilltout (2018), who highlights that ‘If used effectively and for purpose it can have a powerful impact on pupils’ learning and outcomes’. This has been reinforced by my observations of teaching individuals who tend to take longer to complete a piece of work. Once the child was allowed to write up their work on the IPad, they were able to complete their piece without facing the risk of ‘falling behind’.

Within today’s society, the number of children who have English as an additional language (EAL) has risen over the past years, resulting in one in six primary school pupils in England not having English as their first language. The communication barrier between those children who are EAL and the teacher may have a tremendous impact upon the children’s educational success. Teachers can use multimedia technology to incorporate media into the lesson, the teacher is then able to provide extra support to these students with the necessary contextual cues to understand new concepts which are taught.  This is evident within my observation of an EAL student using the IPad to change the instructions given by the teacher to their first language. Some writers claim that there is little doubt that implementing technology for these children can have an immense significance on their achievements, as the technological devices which they have access to may support them in any way they may need.

Moreover, from my practice I witnessed a movement towards self-led learning within the classroom. Research suggests that an approach centred on individual needs and motivation when a workload made to measure is most effective, reinforcing the idea that self-directed learning teaches students how to learn, rather than what to learn. However, this theory of self-directed learning through the use of technology within the classroom caused a huge distraction to pupil’s concentration levels. OFSTED (2015) expressed that bringing tablet computers into school can be “extremely disruptive to pupils throughout their lesson. This has been supported by my teaching practice as I found this to be a reoccurring behaviour management issue, as it was sometimes highly impracticable to be teaching a class of 30 children whilst IPads were placed in front of them.

Even though it can be argued that the use of IPads had an important influence on the everyday learning environment, the continuous use of using IPad may have some issues upon the daily running of a classroom. In some classrooms, children tend to read from their IPads using an application in comparison to the traditional reading of books. The use of IPads for reading is therefore changing the way we learn to read.  Baron (2015), discusses that when we read a book onscreen, we can instantly search for certain passages or key pieces of information, in comparison to flipping backwards and forwards to comprehend the literacy of the text. This declining nature of teaching children to read books will have an upcoming effect on future practice. This research may highlight how this decrease will affect the teaching of reading in upcoming years, as children may believe the norm of reading is to do so from technology in comparison to a book.

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The author

Sarah McCabe is a BA Primary Education Hons student in her second year of study. She has had a variety of experience over KS1 and KS2 and is currently based in the North East of England. Specialising in KS2 and PE, they are both areas of study which she is fond of. To follow her teaching journey, follow her Twitter @MissMcCabe98.

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