The advances in technology have greatly altered the way we live. We rely upon it for entertainment. We use it to buy products and obtain services. And due to the pandemic, we have increasingly relied upon it to help us keep in touch with the outside world.
Our children, the current generation of students, have grown up in this digital age. They’ve been exposed to technological devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets for quite some time now. Their everyday life is mostly spent in the digital world. Unfortunately, education has yet to catch up with the times. Technology in the classroom is nothing new, of course, but it has yet to be truly used as a powerful educational tool. That is, until the pandemic.
COVID-19 forced many schools to shut down and parents to keep their children at home. It also demonstrated the importance of integrating technology in the classroom. While the abrupt shift towards online learning wasn’t easy for both students and teachers, it cannot be denied that many modern technologies can improve teaching and the learning experience, accommodate the different learning styles of students, and provide access to various educational resources. Not only that, technology can create more inclusive learning environments, promoting collaboration among and between students and teachers. More importantly, it can help them more effectively learn and practice 21st-century skills as well as prepare them for real-world experiences.
Of course, as great as it all sounds, there are still several challenges that students face when using modern technologies in the classroom. Some of them were due to the actual integration of technology. Others are due to other factors such as the pandemic. Below we discuss a few of the big challenges and how students, with the help of their teachers and parents, can overcome them.
Skepticism about online education
While online learning has been around for quite some time, it wasn’t considered the norm. Most educators as well as students preferred the traditional method of learning through the in-person classroom setting. Even before the pandemic, people already questioned the effectiveness of online education for several reasons. They believed that online learning requires more discipline which may discourage students who are already struggling in the classroom. It is not as engaging as in-person lectures which can reduce the students’ motivation to study. In addition, students dislike online classes because it prevents them from spending time physically with their peers.
Overcoming skepticism about online education takes time and a lot of effort on the part of teachers and parents. A quality learning experience involves more than just creating interesting lessons, but also ensuring interaction among your students. Coming up with unique teaching methods that foster a dynamic learning environment can help increase interaction among students. One of the more popular methods is the Flipped Classroom where students are asked to prepare for the lesson before class even starts (i.e. reading the class material). The live class is then used for discussion, giving the students the time and space to share ideas.
Altering lessons to accommodate different learning styles can also help increase engagement which makes it easier for students to be more disciplined about their schoolwork. Additionally, making sure that the students know who to approach for help as well as where resources can be found can make a huge difference for those struggling during online classes.
Lack of access to the internet
Online learning often requires a fast connection which is not something all students have at home. It might be surprising to know that some people are unable to afford Wi-Fi at home. This makes attending live classes online difficult. It also prevents students from accessing resources and educational tools that can help them meet their academic needs.
Technological inequities aren’t anything new, but they became highlighted due to the pandemic and the need to shift to purely online learning. Aside from access to the Internet, many students do not have the proper equipment such as laptops or tablets that should help them with their classes.
While many districts were able to provide their students with devices, most were unable to help them gain access to the internet. RAND Corporation released a report last year that showed only 45% of teachers surveyed were able to confirm that their districts provided students with Wi-Fi hotspots.
Going online isn’t anything new for students. They practically live in the digital world. And that world is huge and full of distractions—things that children would prefer to spend time on rather than listening to teachers in class. Since students are provided access to electronic devices during class (it’s practically required), they can easily use them to visit websites and play games while the teacher is speaking.
Digital distractions aren’t the only things that can steal the attention of students during online learning. The home also carries with it distractions of its own. Toys, beds, pets, family members, etc. These can all contribute to a student’s lack of focus while in class. This is why experts recommend that parents set up a study area where they will stay during online classes. Doing so can minimize distractions at home.
As for digital distractions, parents can block access to apps on mobile devices. They can also opt to place the study area near where they work at home to enable them to supervise their child when they’re supposed to be studying.
One of the biggest challenges that students face when using technologies is accessibility. School websites, educational platforms, and resources should be accessible to all students, including those with disabilities and low literacy levels. For example, websites must be compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers. Text alternatives for audio and visual content make it possible for students with visual and hearing impairments to consume the same content as their peers. This also enables students with slow internet to see the content without waiting for video or audio to load.
To ensure that students are given equal learning opportunities, schools need to make sure that their website, platform, and other learning materials are ADA compliant. Checking changes in web accessibility laws and standards can help ensure that no student gets left behind.
Students of the Future
While schools are slowly opening up their doors, the integration of modern technologies in education won’t stop, and we don’t want them to. The use of technology in and out of the classroom will enable students to acquire knowledge in different ways, help them gain a deeper understanding of complex ideas, and provide them with opportunities to practice their knowledge in a fun way. But to make sure that all of this comes true for every student, we need to ensure that they can overcome the challenges they currently face today. Skepticism. Accessibility. Distractions.