Opening Up the World with Edtech: Teaching Digital Natives

The implementation of edtech into education has been in process for decades and has looked different in each school and district in which I have worked. Some have considered it a panacea that will in one fell swoop fix all the ills of education. Others have considered it another fad that will disappear as the ever swinging pendulum of educational trends again moves back across the center point.

I have experienced that edtech can be a powerful force in learning when it is used as a tool for creation and collaboration where students can take ownership of their own learning. Research has shown that technology integration improves K-12 achievement when digital and face-to-face instruction are integrated. It can open the walls of our classrooms and allow our students access to the world beyond. It can also be very limiting when used at its lowest levels with students only using technology in a passive state. That is the “rub.” Technology for technology’s sake does no one any favors.

Where does one begin?

As with all learning, we have to begin with the end in mind. What are the learning objectives and how can using technology enhance and improve that learning? I often point teachers to the SAMR model, and the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Are students using technology to “sit and get” or are they creating and collaborating to cement their understanding and create new tasks? If you are having students use technology to redefine learning in as many ways as possible, then by all means, please integrate technology into your instruction. But, if you are only using technology at its very lowest levels, and only so you can say you did, then, please reconsider and plan creative lessons that redefine learning, even if they don’t involve technology.

Instruction needs to be creative and rigorous enough to stretch our students’ learning to the highest levels. Gone are the days of rote learning inside the four walls of a room. Our 21st century learners are problem solvers and have access to the entire world from within their four-walled classrooms through the use of technology.

Our current students are digital natives. They have grown up with tablets and tech of all kinds in their hands. They have had immediate access to information since they were toddlers. We need to instruct them using those same tools, take our learning to them.

Start by looking at the learning objectives for teaching digital natives:

  • Is there a better way to dispense information to our students?
  • Can they use technology to discover learning, to get feedback and then strengthen their learning?
  • Can they collaborate and teach each other?
  • Are there different ways for students to show their understanding and to work at their own pace?
  • Would having a global audience up the stakes?
  • Could the students use problem-based circumstances to create their own learning and solutions?

The use of apps and software programs allow students to show and/or build their understanding through the creation of images, songs, games, coding, movies, websites, and more. Students can visit with experts and other classrooms from across the world through video-conferencing.

Electronic simulations allow students to perform experiments at lower cost and without the need for pricey equipment. Student learning can be personalized to fit their strengths and interests. From the primary grades where students might start their technology journeys by recording themselves reading to track fluency or screen-casting their understanding of how to solve an addition problem to secondary students who are writing code and developing solutions to problems that impact us all, technology can be a powerful educational tool for teaching digital natives.

As educators we need to prepare our students for the complex, highly technological world they will work in. Along with the curricular objectives in every grade level, there are technological skills that our students will also need to be successful. We shortchange our students if we don’t educate the entire student. For all of these reasons, the implementation of edtech is no longer optional, it should be part of every student’s experience.

Discover SMART’s education solutions for teaching digital natives.  

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Teresa Brown
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About Teresa Brown

Teresa Brown is a SMART Exemplary Educator and Instructional Technology Specialist. For the last 22 years, she's been at the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. She loves using technology to enhance student learning and open the doors of the world to her students.

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