Envisioning a K-12 classroom may conjure up images of blackboards and a teacher standing at the front scrawling notes that students are frantically copying, but times have changed. These days, in many classrooms, blackboards are obsolete. Teachers have traded chalk for interactive displays and students may even be working on tablets or laptops rather than copying into notebooks. The role of technology in education is twofold. On one hand it enhances education by providing tools that help students learn more efficiently, but it also provides training to a future generation that will hold jobs that will be highly dependent upon technology.
Now a mainstay in many K-12 classrooms, interactive displays have been around since 2001 and while interactive whiteboards were all the rage in recent years, Interactive Flat Panel Displays (IFPD) are now the more popular choice. According to a report by FutureSource Consulting, by the fourth-quarter of 2018, eighty-three percent of interactive display sales were IFPD—an eleven percent increase over the previous year. Display prices have decreased significantly in recent years and have some benefits over the interactive whiteboards in that they provide brighter, clearer images and require little to no maintenance.
Internet connectivity is now available in all schools nationwide and with the access to online materials many schools have desktop and laptop computers, as well as tablets available for students to utilize. Textbooks are now increasingly being replaced with interactive, multimedia digital textbooks or e-textbooks that are accessible through the Internet. In fact, forty-six percent of students in grades 9–12 who responded to a 2015 survey put out by Project Tomorrow reported that they were using online textbooks, compared with just thirty percent in 2005. Educators are also finding ways to supplement traditional teaching methods with Internet-based resources like videos, games, and simulations. The use of academic-content videos from services such as YouTube, Khan Academy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are also becoming more and more commonplace.
In both classes and extracurricular programs offered by schools, coding, robotics and drones are taking hold. These dynamic programs can help boost attendance, positive behavior and student satisfaction by providing an extremely engaging type of learning where seeing the results of what they have learned is immediate and tangible. At Liberty High School in Youngstown, Ohio, they offer a drone class in which students not only learn to operate and program the drones, but also to design and 3D print their own drones in the engineering lab using computer-aided design (CAD) programs.
As technology advances, there will continue to be new and innovative ways to engage and educate students. Virtual and augmented reality are already being used sparingly, but all signs indicate that they will be carving out their own space in the classroom in coming years. 3D printing could soon take the place of Legos and biometric eye tracking could be the future in helping teachers learn how to better engage students. Staying up-to-date with emerging technologies and opportunities to use them in a classroom setting is vital to maintaining an educational advantage.