Rotem Arieli, sophomore in family studies and human services, did not begin actively using technology in a classroom until she was was in seventh grade.
“In math, we started using something like a SMART board instead of a whiteboard,” Arieli said.
Even though Arieli only started using technology within classrooms after already being in school almost a decade, she now feels students who do not have access to or cannot afford technology are behind their peers.
“When I am in class, e-textbooks have helped me a ton,” Arieli said. “I can key search a word when a teacher asks a question in class, instead of having to go to the index and looking it up and then going back to the current chapter. By the time someone does that, the teacher will have moved on to the next question, anyways.”
Other students disagree that college students are hindered by lack of technology if they are unable to afford it or upgrade while at a university.
“I don’t think [students] will fall behind, because there are many resources available to them on campus,” Alexandria Linville, senior in elementary education, said. “But I do think they will have to work harder not to fall behind because of the inconvenience of finding the necessary technology.”
Technology within classrooms has evolved with the digital age, just as it did when schools switched from using typewriters to keyboards and monitors. There are now schools that not only have tech classes with computers, but teach with technology.
One school district trailblazing the use of technology in classrooms is USD 258 in Humboldt, Kan.
“The transition went fairly smooth,” K.B. Criss, superintendent of the district, said. “There are only a few things that need ironed out.”
The USD 258 district is a pilot school with Pearson PLC, a British multinational publishing and education company, with the digital curriculum. This means that all students in the district have a personal form of technology for classes supplied by the district. Students from kindergarten through third grade have iPads. Students from fourth grade through 12 have HP laptops that they can both use while in the classroom and take home for assignments.
“We held the student and parent meetings before the year started,” Criss said. “We explained how to deploy the laptops. We set up different rotations for care and use of computers and digital citizenship.”
Criss said this helped set the stage for everything going smoothly when transitioning to a digital curriculum, as well as helping students have a better understanding of the technology they would be using for classes before the school year started. Criss also said it was amazing to see 4 and 5-year-olds have understanding of how to use the technology.
“If they are behind a little bit, it seems that they catch up really quick at that age,” Criss said.
For those who plan to enter the workforce as teachers, technology is most likely something they will not be able to avoid in the classroom, especially as more districts gain funding for the devices.
Linville, who would like to teach kindergarten, said recognition of the need for technology in classrooms is already something she thinks about as she finishes her final semester at K-State.
“The level of technology and what technology I use in my future classroom will be largely dependent upon my school district,” Linville said. “However, I do know that regardless of how much technology is available to me, I want to use it in a way that creates a more engaging curriculum for my students, while simultaneously helping them develop the ability to effectively communicate using various forms of technology.”
Linville feels that being able to not only use technology but to communicate effectively via technology has become a requirement for being considered literate in our society.
“It is our job as educators to ensure that our students develop these 21st century literacy skills in order to become productive members of society,” Linville said.
As students enter classrooms for the first time, one concern is that a child’s lack of experience with technology will create a learning curve that places them behind their peers. Linville said this was not a huge concern for her.
“I do not necessarily think that a child’s prior experience with technology will have a lasting impact on their ability to use technology successfully,” Linville said. “Children enter the classroom with a wide range of ability levels on everything from reading and writing and all the way to technology use. I do not worry so much about teaching children how to use technology, as I do about making sure that whatever technology I do incorporate has a meaningful purpose.”
Communication is a bigger concern for Linville, as a future educator, than teaching students how to use devices in the classroom.
“What I am more concerned about is creating a balance between developing those 21st century literacy skills while also developing the face-to-face communication skills that our society is slowly losing,” Linville said.