Technology plays an increasingly central role in supporting student achievement.
Walk into any classroom across the country today, and you’ll likely see at least one piece of instructional technology. Maybe it’s a SMART Board the teacher uses to explain a particular geometry concept, a projector a teacher uses to share an online resource with her students, or a Chromebook cart packed with individual student devices, each with its own ID tag. These are just a few of the most common examples of how technology plays an increasingly central role in daily classroom instruction.
But technology does more than just change the mode in which instruction occurs. It also adds value to traditional instructional methods that don’t always reach individual learners. More broadly, technology can offer new opportunities for teachers to impact their students’ academic achievement. Educational technology can transform an otherwise rote math lesson into a colorful SMART Board display replete with animations, sound effects, and, importantly, opportunities for direct student engagement. It’s not hard to see how using such technology can take a concept students might consider boring or abstract and turn it into something that sparks engagement.
Certain technologies also increase instructional efficiency, allowing teachers to better tailor their instructional methods to individual learners. Online instructional platforms, for example, can differentiate instruction in real-time. Students can work on their school-issued devices while the teacher “floats” around the class to support specific students. Data and assessment platforms similarly offer teachers with tools to differentiate their instruction: by providing powerful insights into gaps in student learning, a teacher can recalibrate his lesson plan to review any concepts with which his students are struggling.
Of course, just purchasing the technology isn’t enough. Teachers rely on stellar managed IT services to make sure their technology consistently works and ensure that when problems do arise, they’re resolved quickly, allowing the teacher to return to instruction and, ultimately, impact student achievement.
Chromebooks provide opportunities for self-directed student work.
Chromebooks are a prime example of the extent to which technology plays an increasingly central role in daily classroom instruction. It’s not uncommon for schools to maintain a 1:1 student-device ratio under which each and every student is assigned an individual Chromebook for use throughout the year. The students might store the Chromebooks in their lockers, travel with them to and from school and between classes, as well as use them as the primary avenue through which to access instructional materials. Where teachers used to tell students to get out their pencils, pens, and notebooks, they’re often as likely to begin class by telling students to retrieve their Chromebook from their backpack or the classroom’s device cart.
The ubiquity of Chromebooks in classrooms across the country allows students opportunities for self-directed learning they would otherwise lack. For example, in any given class of students, there’s undoubtedly variation in the extent to which each child understands a lesson’s content. Some quickly master the day’s concept, while other students require extra support. By shifting a traditional instructional paradigm—students seated in uniform rows, facing the same direction, while the teacher presents the day’s lesson–Chromebooks allow individual students to work at their own pace, only moving on once they fully understand the instructional material.
This shift can also support students’ social-emotional development, allowing them to self-regulate their pacing and take ownership of their learning in a way they couldn’t in a classroom using more traditional methods. The sooner students can learn to be accountable for their own content mastery and take the initiative to complete their instructional to-dos, the better their long-term outcomes will be as they progress through middle, high school, and ultimately college.
SMART Boards and audiovisual equipment provide engaging alternatives to traditional instructional methods.
SMART Boards and audiovisual equipment have become similarly common sights in classrooms across the country. Chalkboards and whiteboards are now used far less often in some schools than a SMART Board that also doubles as a projection space the teacher uses to present content.
Like Chromebooks, these tools offer a way to reach students who might otherwise not participate in, much less understand, the day’s class discussion or lesson. For some students, no matter how engaging a teacher may be, a whiteboard and Expo marker isn’t going to cut it. SMART Boards, projectors, and the content they allow the teacher to display can be far more engaging to the average learner. Instead of “zoning out” or watching the clock waiting for the class period to end, students are instead absorbed in the day’s content. For younger learners especially, the animations, sound effects, and opportunities for engagement provided by SMART Boards and other audiovisual equipment allow for more rapid content mastery and ensure otherwise disengaged students have the opportunity to cement their learning.
Online instructional platforms differentiate instruction in real-time to support student achievement.
Using their school-issued devices, students can also access online instructional platforms that differentiate instruction in real-time, allowing them to either move on from a particular concept or continue reviewing it to confirm their understanding. BrainPop, DreamBox, and Newsela, for instance, all offer standard-aligned content that allows students to work at their own pace and automatically adjust each module’s content based on student understanding.
Like SMART Boards and projectors, these tools can turn otherwise mundane lessons into exciting visual displays while also allowing a teacher to more efficiently use her time to support individual students. By reviewing analytics provided by the online instructional platform, for instance, a teacher can typically see, at a glance, which students are struggling with a particular concept and which students are much further along than the rest of the class. Armed with these insights, she can then strategically rotate among the class to support individual learners or pull small groups to reinforce particularly tricky concepts, all while allowing other learners to continue engaging with the day’s lesson.
Post-intervention, the analytics provided by the online platform can give teachers a rapid sense of the intervention’s efficacy. If students continue to struggle with a particular concept, the teacher can immediately revise her lesson plan or intervention materials to account for the students’ gaps in understanding.
Without this information, the teacher would be forced to use her time far less efficiently. Rather than providing the kind of tailored instruction made possible through online instructional platforms, the teacher would have to wait for a formalized assessment to truly gauge students’ content mastery.
Finally, technology gives teachers the insights they need to tailor their instruction and boost student achievement.
Schools increasingly use data and assessment platforms like Illuminate to provide insights into students’ content mastery. These platforms typically map on top of the school’s existing student information system, such as Powerschool, generate student assessments, and ultimately house students’ assessment data. This data, in turn, is used to generate student-, class-, and site-specific reports based on the assessment’s results.
Data and assessment reports provide instructional insights to school leaders as well as classroom teachers. School leaders can quickly determine which of their teachers’ instruction is most effective while investigating why another classroom of students appears to be struggling. The answer, of course, might have little to do with a teacher’s instructional capacity, but these reports allow the school leader to at least begin the conversation, identifying best practices within and across grade levels that can then be scaled to the school as a whole.
Of course, classroom teachers can use their own students’ results to determine which concepts, if any, demand reinforcement. By differentiating each assessment question by standard (e.g., “conjunctions,” “metaphors,” or “quadratic formula”), teachers can quickly identify the concepts with which students are struggling at both an individual and class level. Maybe the teacher decides to pull a small group of students during a study hall to review a particular concept while determining that the rest of the class is ready to move on to the next topic. Alternatively, maybe a class full of students has missed a particular concept altogether, so the teacher decides to shift his lesson plan to accommodate an additional day of review. These insights wouldn’t be possible without the sophisticated analytics of common data and assessment platforms used by schools today and underscore yet another way in which technology is increasingly central to impacting student achievement.
At CTS, we help schools use their technology to impact student achievement.
Our team has worked with more than 60 schools across the United States to provide stellar day-to-day technology management, as well as longer-term strategic insights that allow schools to use technology to accomplish their unique missions. Whether it’s the introduction of a new suite of Chromebooks, the build-out of a school robotics lab, or fulfillment of the school’s annual E-rate bid, our team has the capacity and experience to help you use your new and existing technology to positively impact student achievement. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school accomplish its unique mission.