Technology is becoming an integral part of any modern classroom. As a teacher, it is important that you can recognize and understand the usefulness of various types of technology you might find in your classroom.

The 21st Century Classroom

A time traveller from the mid-20th century would probably have a heart attack if they walked into a modern classroom during a lesson. Gone are the days when teachers stand in front of the classroom and talk at their students all day. Now, you’ll likely find students working together using various forms of educational technology. In this context, the term technology refers to any device used to supplement and enhance student learning. There are various types of devices that fall under this umbrella, and each will be discussed in this lesson.

Computers

When you think of technology, you probably think of computers. These wonderful machines are found everywhere. People use them for a wide variety of reasons, including socializing, shopping, and creating. However, they are also powerful pieces of educational technology that can enhance student learning in amazing ways.

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There are a few different devices that fall under the definition of computer. These are the traditional computer (with a tower and attached monitor) and the laptop, which is a portable computer where the display, keyboard, and internal mechanisms are all housed in a single device. You might find both of these in a century classroom and they can be used in many different and creative ways by students.

Students working on classroom laptops.

Computers and laptops are ideal for research projects and student-created work. For example, you can place students in groups to research a certain topic. They can all sit around a laptop, research, and then put together a document or presentation to show what they’ve learned. There are also many educational websites that students and schools can access to help deepen understanding and practice skills.

Tablets

Students today are basically trained from birth to interact with technology through touch. For example, you may have seen a young child attempt to swipe the screen of a laptop or television, only to be perplexed that nothing on the screen moved.

Touchscreen technology has revolutionized the way with interact so it makes sense that these devices would be used for educational purposes, as well. In many schools and classrooms, you’ll find a set of tablets, which are small, touch-screen based portable computers, that students can use to practice skills and sometimes even create. There are a huge number of educational ‘apps’ that schools can load onto these tablets to facilitate learning.

Many schools keep their tablets in carts that teachers can sign out.

For example, if you just spent several days teaching students how to add two-digit numbers with regrouping, you can then use an app on the tablets to give them some time to practice the skill. Practicing in this way is much more natural for students who are growing up with touch-screen technology.

Another exciting use for tablets is through various websites that interface with both the tablets and an interactive whiteboard. For example, a website that allows you to create a trivia style game can be used to project questions on the whiteboard while students select their answers on their tablets. There are many creative and engaging ways to use tablets that are only a web search away.

Interactive Whiteboards

In classrooms of the past, if you wanted to show something to the whole class, you probably had to draw or write on a clear sheet of paper to use on an overhead projector. If you showed a student today this device, they would probably try to find a place to plug their phones into it. Luckily, modern classrooms often come equipped with interactive whiteboards.

Interactive whiteboards are actually two pieces of technology used together. One part is the projector, which can attach to a laptop, computer, or tablet to show the screen to the whole class. The other part is the interactive whiteboard onto which the image is projected. However, the whiteboard is also an incredibly powerful collaboration tool. You can write over and interact with the projection using a stylus-type tool.

A student writing on an interactive whiteboard.

For example, if you project a paragraph from your laptop to the class, you can have students take turns reading from it. You can also call students up to the whiteboard so they can underline key details, facts, opinions, or other comprehension-related skills. Students can also use the whiteboard for presentations, watching videos, or drawing something for the whole class to see.

The interactive whiteboard is often the center of the classroom. As a teacher, you can use this tool to do the majority of your direct instruction by projecting information onto the screen. Since it is large enough for the whole class to see, an interactive whiteboard is ideal for whole-class activities and instruction.

A Note About Using Technology

There are many amazing uses for educational technology, and you might find yourself with many of these tools at your disposal. You will surely want to use the tools and have your students use them, as well. One of the most important things to remember when using educational technology is that your students need to be trained and taught how to use it effectively. Technology should never be used just because it’s there. Instead, use it only when it can enhance and supplement learning and teaching.

Lesson Summary

Technology in the 21st century classroom is any device used to supplement and enhance teaching and learning. In many modern classrooms, you will likely find many kinds of technology, including computers (a tower with external monitor attached), laptops (portable computers), tablets (portable, touch-screen based devices), and interactive whiteboards (a projector and a whiteboard that can be attached to a computer). Using these devices effectively requires some training for both teachers and students. Once you have the knowledge, these devices can be amazing tools for creating and learning.