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Technology in the Classroom: The Educational Benefits

Technology in the Classroom: The Educational Benefits


My nine-year-old daughter sat at my laptop, giggling to herself and tapping at the keyboard with authority. No, she was not perusing social media or watching an endless stream of cat videos. Instead, she was working on a video game she had started coding in school earlier in the day. I looked at the clock, torn. Do I let her continue working and learning happily? Or do I tear her away because she’s been staring at the screen for too long?

With so much talk and guilt surrounding the idea of technology, screen time, and our children, I thought it would be interesting to look at the other side of the coin: how technology might actually help enhance a child’s education.

I spoke to a few local teachers who teach preschool through middle school students and asked them what they think about kids and technology as well as how it affects their classrooms and the learning process.

The Educational Benefits of Using Technology

Mario Suarez, who teaches 5th and 6th grade science at Pocantico Hills School in Sleepy Hollow, is very much in favor of using technology in the classroom. “I believe technology enhances a student’s understanding of the world around them. Regardless of the subject there is always room for technology to enhance a lesson or concept,” Suarez said. With screen time becoming something that kids are constantly looking forward to and that they have a positive association with, utilizing screens for learning can be a really powerful way to connect with kids who may otherwise be reluctant or uninterested.

Technology can also help teachers (and parents) adapt lessons to different students’ needs. Suarez, for example, noticed that taking notes with the traditional pen and paper was distracting for some of his students. “I am always looking for ways to engage all the different types of learners within my classes,” he said. He found that typing on the iPad made it easier for some, while others benefited from watching Suarez type the notes on the smartboard, and still others benefited from being given a printout at the end of class to fill in any of the spaces they may have missed in their own note taking.

Suarez also utilizes technology to push his strong students even further. When students grasp the goals of a particular lesson, he gives them an added challenge, which often includes the use of technology. “Introducing technology or the engineering process into everyday practices fosters the ability to make good lessons, great ones,” Suarez said.

Jason Frechette, a 7th grade ELA teacher at Nyack Middle school for the past fifteen years, has also embraced the positives that technology brings to his classroom. “Google Docs is indispensable in my classroom because it allows me to respond to all 80-100 students,” Frechette said. “While students are working on a writing assignment, they can share their writing with me, I can respond to them via Google Docs, and assist in their understanding during the writing process.” This type of collaboration dramatically cuts back the amount of time it takes students to get feedback. Teachers can sometimes even provide students with feedback while they work.

Frechette also reflected on how much technology and teaching have changed in the last few years. “For years, teachers have been ‘graded’ on how they use technology in the classroom,” he explained. “When I first began teaching, this was defined as using an overhead projector.” Today, so many other forms of technology are used, from smartboards and cloud-based file sharing to iPads and computers. With so many technological advancements, it’s important that teachers (and parents!) keep up and use these new avenues to our advantage in teaching our children.



A Caution About Technology in the Classroom

While Suarez and Frechette see a lot of positives about these new technologies in the classroom, Claudia Weger, the Director at Ossining Children’s Center, has mixed feelings about it—mostly because of the age of the children she works with. “Three and four year olds need to play and to learn to be social beings,” she said. “They need to paint and play with play dough and pretend. I feel like I have to squeeze that in between technology.”

Weger said that in the four-year-old rooms, the smartboard, iPads and computers are part of the daily curriculum, which mirrors the Ossining public-school curriculum. The Ossining Children’s Center also partners with the Jacob Burns educational center to have the four year olds make movies on iPads and provide an after-school animation workshop for the older kids. “We can't stop technology,” Weger said. “It's a part of our culture so the children need to be familiar with it.”

So, as parents, how do we balance it all out at home?

“Just like with anything else, moderation,” Weger said. “I don't want computers to replace a lap and a book.” Parents can also take a page from a teacher’s book and find ways to engage their children in learning and push them further with the technology they have access to.

RELATED: Get the best local activities sent straight to your in-box.

As for my daughter? I let her explore her newfound skills for a little longer and then read her a chapter from Harry Potter—because both of those things were important for her on that particular day. 

Free Teacher-Approved Websites and Apps:

Code.org: children (or parents!) can learn the basics of coding in a fun environment

Tynker.com: another free block coding site. Children create scenes, characters, and sounds. In advanced levels, they can develop their own video games

Explorelearning.com: "Gizmos" are interactive science labs. Many of the gizmos can be used to reinforce scientific concepts from the classroom

Brainpop.com: an unbelievable collection of educational short videos geared towards children in elementary and early middle school ages

Geocaching.com: this is a fun way to introduce map skills by searching for real hidden treasures

YouTube has many wonderful videos but I would highly recommend parents view them first rather than allowing their children to explore freely

Quizlet.com: a simple study tool that allows children to create flashcards, tests and study games that make learning fun

Sky guide (iOS users): Brings the night sky to life. Simply move your phone or iTouch around and be able to identify that star or planet. Hold it still and it will show you the constellation

RELATED: Looking for a private school? Our ebook will help you through the process.

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Jennifer Garry

Author:

Jennifer Garry is a freelance writer and Westchester mom. She writes about that ever-elusive struggle for balance on her personal blog, Cuddles and Chaos (cuddlesandchaos.com).  

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