"That technology allowed instruction to continue for many as COVID shuttered schools is no longer surprising," writes Forbes senior contributor Michael B. Horn. "Although a mere two decades ago, it would have passed for science fiction."
We're all familiar with the story. School closings and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to increase their efforts in one particular area: technology. School systems had to invest in new hardware, software, and devices to allow students to continue learning remotely. Teachers had to quickly become familiar with new technology tools to facilitate virtual classrooms and assignments. All of this was done to ensure students could continue their education despite the pandemic.
The Genie is Out of the Bottle
What's happened since, though? The use of technologies that proved successful during the pandemic has continued to be embraced and expanded in a world that increasingly turns to online solutions. These technologies include virtual classrooms, online assessment tools, and video conferencing software. This shift to online learning has opened up new opportunities for students to access education regardless of location. It has also allowed educators to reach larger audiences and expand the reach of their teachings.
In a recent article, Conor Williams writes that after visiting dozens of classrooms over six months, digital learning is everywhere. "I don't recall seeing a single one without a computer screen projected onto the board at the front of the room."
One of the most over-used terms from the last several years is 'the new normal,' but that is the best descriptor for what is happening in our education system. Rather than reopening schools to "normal" classroom instruction post-pandemic, we brought daily virtual learning into real-world classrooms. This has been a necessary step to keep up with the ever-evolving technology of the 21st century - and to stay vigilant for the real possibility of a future world-changing event. It has allowed students to stay connected with their peers, despite the physical distance. In addition, it has enabled teachers to provide lessons more engagingly and interactively.
Is New Better?
That's the $304 billion question. Technology offers many benefits, but some educators lament the loss of personal interaction. Technology can't replace the individual attention a teacher can provide a student. It also lacks the emotional connection that can make learning more meaningful and enjoyable. This has led many to conclude that, ultimately, technology should be used to supplement, not replace, teachers' roles. Technology can't replace the individual attention a teacher can provide a student. It also lacks the emotional connection that can make learning more meaningful and enjoyable.
But the consensus is technology is transforming learning and instruction for the better. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) help educators improve their effectiveness and learning outcomes, while gamification (adding game-like elements to a task) and immersive learning make learning more experiential and engaging. Technology is giving educators access to more powerful tools to customize instruction to the needs of individual students. At the same time, virtual reality and augmented reality can transport students to new worlds and help them explore complex ideas and concepts.
How will classroom instruction evolve in the future? Our school systems have already embraced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, which is focused on teaching students the necessary skills to succeed in the 21st century. In other words, students are learning to code and exploring virtual and augmented reality technology. This focus on technology in the classroom will only continue to grow. As students become more accustomed to technology, teachers will be able to integrate more digital tools in the classroom to enhance the learning experience. The future of classroom instruction is sure to be one that fully embraces technology.