Connected Classrooms: How Technology in Schools Has Changed the Way We Learn

The last two decades have been a period of unprecedented innovation when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom environment. In just twenty years, educators have had to adopt significant paradigm shifts in regard to using technology in the classroom. Consider the following examples:

In 1998, training in cursive writing was a mandatory aspect of the curriculum in most schools. Today, students almost never submit assignments in written form, and even note-taking in class is often done on laptops. In most schools, cursive writing is no longer taught.

In the early 2000s, educators encouraged students to do math in their heads because "you won't always have a calculator". In 2017, the widespread adoption of mobile connected devices gives all of us access to calculators and other highly sophisticated numeracy tools on a constant basis.

As the world of work evolves to include more technology applications, it's crucial that educators get kids working with technology from an early age in order to enhance their life outcomes. Here are a few ways that the integration of technology in schools in enhancing the way we learn and preparing our children for successful futures in the job market.

 

Google Classroom Enhances Student/Teacher Connectivity

In 2014, Google released a new learning platform called Google Classroom, which facilitates the administration of classrooms by enhancing connectivity between students and teachers.

The project leverages several of Google's existing tools to create web-based learning portal that connects teachers and students through a variety of functional processes - students use Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to create documents, spreadsheets, and slideshow presentations, and file sharing between students and teachers is facilitated through Google Drive.

In addition, the Google Calendar tool is used by teachers for planning, scheduling, and to set deadlines or give extensions, and students are assigned Gmail accounts that they can use to communicate with the course instructor. The platform can be used by teachers to direct multiple classes, and by students to participate in multiple classes. Accessibility to the platform is supported across multiple device types, including iOS and Android-enabled mobile devices.

Reviews of Google Classroom have been positive.  Paperless processes centralize the course date and eliminate the need for teachers to print and distribute assignments to students, meaning that the assignments are never lost.  Google Classroom also supports assignment grading, shortening the feedback loop between students and teachers while facilitating rapid academic development.

There are also great benefits to be gained by exposing young children to the most common office tools at an early age. Getting kids working with web-based calendars, office tools, and electronic communication platforms is now a superior means of ensuring they get the computer literacy skills that are needed for today's working world.

 

Connected Classrooms Offer New Educational Opportunities for Students

Google Classroom does an exceptional job of leveraging connected devices to facilitate interactions between the teacher and student, but what about delivering new learning opportunities through the use of connected devices?

Connected Classrooms is a revolutionary program on Google Plus that teachers can now use to connect their students with a variety of new learning opportunities. The program makes use of two new types of interactions -  Virtual Field Trips and Hangouts on Air.

With budgetary cutbacks across education systems, it is becoming more difficult to offer students the kinds of enriching experiences that should be characteristic of their education - visits to the local zoo or aquarium, a bus ride to the wilderness to explore what is outside the city, etc.  Virtual Field Trips connect cultural institutions like museums, aquariums, and even NASA, with students around the world, providing unique interactive experiences through live video conferencing. Google has partnered with a number of institutions to continue delivering this feature to schools around the world.

Hangouts on Air are live video conferences that enable real-time education, communication, and collaboration with up to ten parties at once. A quick look at the Connected Classrooms page reveals that the program already has over 25,000 users, and educators across the United States are actively seeking opportunities to interface with others across borders - educators in the USA are looking to connect their classes with students across the world to discuss differences in climate, or with other classrooms in Britain to discuss the American Revolution, and much more.

Google Classrooms is using connected devices to offer students formative experiences and new perspectives that they could never have accessed otherwise, and with significantly lower costs.

 

McGraw Hill Connect Program Achieves Great Outcomes in Case Studies

McGraw Hill is one of the biggest publishers in the education space, and now they're using that experience to enhance education outcomes for students with a new program, called McGraw Hill Connect.

Similar to Google Classroom, Connect is a learning platform that integrates assignments, grading, and course content. The program also includes an application called SmartBook, a digital version of the course textbook that uses algorithmic learning to provide an enhanced, interactive experience. SmartBook quizzes students as they learn, automatically highlights important points in the text, and is cheaper than purchasing textbooks.

Case studies on the outcomes produced by McGraw Hill Connect and Smartbook have been extremely positive, with reports of the following:

  • 20% increase in student retention for colleges that adopted the system

  • 13% improvement in pass rates for students using the system

  • 9% increase in average exam scores

  • 15% more students earned A and B grades than before

  • Instructors spent 72% less time on administrative tasks and 90% more time on learning experiences

 

Conclusion

The education system is in a state of rapid change. As technology advances by leaps and bounds, and the requirements of the workplace continue to evolve, adapting our educational practices to enhance learning and produce skilled and qualified people is vital to our future.

Connected devices are playing a major role in bringing enrichment and new experiences to students of all ages. A connected classroom is one where teachers spend less time on administrative tasks and more time focused on how to enrich and enlighten our youth. Google Classroom and McGraw Hill Connect are just two of many examples of how learning can be integrated through technology platforms to enhance outcomes for students.

In the future, technology in schools will continue to help address many of the social issues that affect our education system, such as budget cuts, increasing class sizes, lack of funding for field trips or materials, increased environmental consciousness, and the need to enhance computer literacy across all levels of society.