Technology in the Classroom: Where the Real Magic Lives

A few years ago in New Delhi, a scientist put a computer in a nook near his building. He turned it on and watched as kids from nearby came over to it, curious. There was no one to explain how to use it. But that didn’t stop them. They sat down and figured it out. At the heart of the story, it’s not about what the technology enabled the kids to do. It’s what the kids were able to do with the technology.

Same thing across the globe. In our Information Age, people everywhere are learning, discovering and exploring. Only, we shouldn’t be heralding the technology. We should be heralding our own passion, our own quest for knowledge. Technology is just a remarkable tool that supports our desire to learn in unimaginable ways.

In schools everywhere, there’s too much emphasis on Technology (with a capital T) in the classroom. Of teachers, parents, and administrators standing up to say we need technology to drive 21st century learning. They buy iPads and Chromebooks but nothing happens. Test scores don’t automatically go up, learning and understanding doesn’t increase.

Why didn’t it work? Chalk it up to magical thinking – the belief that technology in the classroom will fix whatever ails a school, a school district. Filling a classroom with technology isn’t the answer. Technology can’t and shouldn’t lead teaching. Instead, we must ask: What are we actually trying to teach? What do we want our students to learn?

Learning shouldn’t be about the technology – it needs to be about what it can do in connection with learning. The tool needs to follow the teaching as opposed to teaching leading the tool. We need to look at the way students think, the way students order their learning. I have visited dozens of classrooms and rarely do I see kids who need to learn Microsoft Word or Chrome to get 21st century skills. Sorry, but kids are far beyond that; they do things with tech that their parents can’t even understand. There may be an access or equity issue but suggesting that teaching word-processing gives children skills for the next century is uninformed.

At SMART, we’re providing educators the tools that glue the different pieces of class together and allows them to watch the learning happen.

We developed our education software as a platform that allows teachers to imagine on top of it. To shape learning the way they want. SMART Learning Suite lets teachers look at the learning and the outcome, like 2+2=4. And it also gives teachers the chance to go back and see that Johnny participates more than Amir, and Sally participates more than Lisa. Teachers can look at the order of the learning – at who is mastering assignments, concepts, and projects – at the micro-assessments that happen throughout the process of learning.

This is where teachers become a learning or instructional coach. The best teachers see themselves as that. And part of being a learning coach is to watch how their students learn. It gives teachers the opportunity to go back to the learning because they have a digital artifact of the order of learning and how it builds on itself.

The most important element in every classroom has never changed and it never will – it’s the teacher. The real magic in a classroom lies with them. Every day they are igniting and inspiring a passion for knowledge. Technology has a place in the classroom. But it’s simply a means to a greater end. It’s a tool that enables and supports learning and the learners.


Discover SMART Learning Suite and watch the learning happen. 

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Warren Barkley
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About Warren Barkley

Warren Barkley is SMART's Chief Technology Officer. He brings over 19 years of technology experience and leadership. Over the last two years at SMART he has built a world class technology team, created a new product category with SMART kapp, and award winning education SAAS SMART amp. Prior to his current role, he served as General Manager in the Microsoft Lync/Skype division. Barkley held several key positions in Microsoft over his tenure and was instrumental in the development of Microsoft Lync as the communication and collaboration software of choice for Fortune 500 companies. At Microsoft he also played a central role in establishing WiFi as a worldwide standard. Barkley holds over 60 worldwide patents in networking, wireless and communications. Barkley has degrees from University of British Columbia and University of Victoria. Before his technology career Barkley was a teacher and musician.

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