An introduction to integrating technology in the classroom

What is integrating technology in the classroom?

Integrating technology in the classroom is how a teacher incorporates some form of technology into their teaching practice to enhance learning by their students. This technology could be as simple as a data projector showing presentations or videos to something as complicated as an app-based assessment tool. Research has shown that technology increases student engagement and encourages teachers to explore new approaches to pedagogy. A virtual classroom, or virtual learning environment, could be seen as one result of integrating technology in teaching and learning. Technology becomes the frame in which education takes places. 

Why is integrating technology in the classroom important?

Marc Andreessen famously wrote an article titled Why Software Is Eating The World. Teachers and students are both parts of a society that is rapidly digitising. The much-hyped 21st Century Skills and Fourth Industrial Revolution are a reality today. From finance to health and everything in between, the world is driven by technology. Teachers need to embrace digital tools to adapt their teaching process to benefit from these tools’ advantages. Ideally, this is integrated into the curriculum, offering students new ways of engaging with educational content to improve their outcomes. When face-to-face teaching is not possible, technology facilitates the communication between teachers and students, enhancing this relationship. Certain types of platforms also allow for collaboration amongst students, peer to peer learning or group work.

How are teachers using technology in the classroom?

Technology has been used in some classrooms for decades now. Think of the inconspicuous calculator in a science or mathematics class. Or the overhead projector some teachers became adept at using. Nowadays, there are a plethora of options available to tech-savvy teachers. The data projector or smartboard is standard in most classrooms, while teachers have a laptop on which to prepare lessons and create class presentations. Where allowed by school policies, teachers can use smartphones or clickers to take a class’s temperature. A quick quiz or poll can inform a teacher whether their students have understood a topic. Some schools have installed a wifi network and bought Chromebooks, opening up online research opportunities and using platforms such as Google Classroom. Teachers can use interactive simulations to illustrate how an engine works or conduct a chemistry experiment at the more advanced end of the spectrum. Some teachers have embraced online assessment platforms and learning management systems when it comes to assisting in class management. For those teachers comfortable with recording their lessons, podcasts or video lessons can be made to allow students to refer back to for revision.

Presentation software was one of the first technologies widely adopted by teachers

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TPACK model

For all teachers struggling to integrate ICT in education in South Africa, the TPACK model is a useful tool, providing a way to integrate pedagogy, content and technology in the ordinary course of teaching in the classroom. This model informs how pedagogy is impacted by the use of digital technology and while deceptively simple it is a powerful teaching approach.

See the diagram below for a visual representation of the model and then watch the excellent three-minute explainer video by Royce Kimmons.

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How edtech can equip learners with the right skills for the 4th industrial revolution

In recent times there has been much talk of a ‘4th industrial revolution’, as the lines between physical and digital experiences blur more and more. What exactly is the 4th industrial revolution and what skills can edtech help learners develop?

What is the 4th industrial revolution?

It is the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

How is it changing the world of work?

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Pioneering home-language learning of mathematics in a digital environment in South Africa

Learning mathematics in a second language has been identified as a major barrier to understanding mathematical concepts and terms for South African learners. The Cambridge Maths Dictionary App (English and isiXhosa) is an easy to use, helpful mobile reference tool for South African learners aged between 10 and 15 years old (Grades 4 to 9). Written in a language that is easily accessible to non-­mother tongue speakers of English, the app  contains over 900 Maths terms and definitions in both English and isiXhosa. Words are explained using examples relevant to the South African context and entries are supported with compelling visual content  to further enhance the explanations and to reinforce the concepts.

Developing this app, the authors wanted to ensure that all the mathematics terminology needed in the South African Intermediate and Senior Phase classroom was covered to really support learners in their studies. More than this, they wanted the content to be interesting, creatively presented and, most of all, learner-friendly. By helping learners to acquire and understand the terminology used in the mathematics classroom, they are able to engage with the concepts in a meaningful and constructive way, rather than being hindered by possible gaps in comprehension.

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Why teaching 21st Century skills using educational technology is essential

Today’s learner needs a rounded skillset appropriate for a job market where digital savvy and the ability to work within multiple disciplines are both crucial. In a world that is hyper-connected through a diverse range of communication technologies, it’s important for learners to acquire adaptable ways of working with others. Educational technology can address these needs, helping learners acquire learning, literacy and life skills.

21st Century Skills
Using digital technology to teach 21st Century Skills

What are 21st Century Skills? The Three ‘Ls’

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning divides 21st Century skills into three categories: Life, learning and literacy skills.

Learning skills such as critical and creative thinking as well as the arts of collaboration and communication are more important than ever. Global trade and industry and the global dissemination of information means that learners are emerging into multilingual and multidisciplinary work environments.  As Thoughtful Learning says:

‘To hold information-age jobs … students also need to think deeply about issues, solve problems creatively, work in teams, communicate clearly in many media, learn ever-changing technologies, and deal with a flood of information.’

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