Backpack, check. Notebooks, check. Electronic tablet? Wait, what? In the age of technology in the classroom, have electronic devices upped the ante of your school shopping list? According to Pearson Foundation, more than six in 10 high school seniors and college students agree that tablets help them study more efficiently and perform better in class. Kids aren’t just texting anymore, folks.
What can parents expect the technology in their child’s classroom to look like today? Certainly it depends on the resources available at the school. But “where schools are incorporating more technology in the classroom, we’re seeing an increase in devices that allow for individual use,” says Edward Steinhauser, an AP (advanced placement) teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. “In the past few years, tablets — particularly iPads — were very popular and still are in use, but over the past three years we have seen a huge increase (up 53 percent since 2014) in the purchase and use of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE).”
“Schools are working hard to get a 1:1 ratio of device to students, so we will continue to see an increase of technology’s presence in the classroom,” he adds.
Experts agree that teachers shouldn’t expect students to have these resources at home, yet many could be working under the assumption that students do have some access to the internet when out of school.
In September 2013, Beaver Country Day School, an independent school for grades 6-12 located just outside Boston, became the first school in the U.S. to implement coding into its core curriculum. That’s right, every single student will learn how to code before he or she graduates, as teachers in every subject have organically integrated coding into their classes.
Coding the curriculum, as Mashable puts it, has the potential to significantly affect the way coding is taught in the U.S., not to mention giving kids an electronic leg up into the future of technology. Plus, it’s pretty cool.
What’s more, in Beaver‘s global history classes, students don’t read textbooks or even the newspaper to learn about global issues. Instead, they Skype with peers in Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and Germany to get firsthand perspectives on controversial topics. Skype gives students authentic experiences they’d never receive from reading about the issues. These are just two examples of the long arm of tech in the classroom.
Some schools are implementing the “flipped” classroom model, wherein school is the place kids do homework and higher-level thinking, while home is where students cover new material by watching video content. The purpose of MOOC (massive open online course) is to use technology to teach new concepts and allow the school to be a space to reinforce them. One of the earliest examples of MOOC is Khan Academy, which encourages independent learning and empowers students that may have geographical or financial constraints to enrich their education. Parents of students in flipped classrooms should be aware that homework consists of watching videos and learning the new stuff at home, and that the review now takes place in the classroom.
The result? With schools flipping the script this way, test scores have improved nearly 25 percent and students report feeling less stressed with the “homework” portion of their day than they used to be.
Average spending on back-to-school supplies has grown 42 percent over the past 10 years, according to the National Retail Federation, with the average family with kids in K-12 spending more than $600 on electronics, apparel and other school needs last year. Don’t sweat the tech trend just yet: Although effective teaching still requires pencils and paper, schools can’t require the use of technology without providing these devices themselves. It’s best to wait for the first day of school to see exactly what’s on the supply list.
What can you expect?
Faye P. Taylor, EdD, an associate professor in Counseling in the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Sciences at Argosy University in Nashville, agrees the supply list has changed over the last few years and tends to include things like flash drives, headphones and fees for technology labs. “The classroom of the 21st century relies as much on technology as [it does on] books, paper and whiteboards.”
Students in the class today were born into the age of technology, and devices like tablets, smartphones and computers are the tools of everyday living for most of them. What’s important, however, is how it’s helping to develop skills your kids will need to participate as adults in a society that’ll only get more technical by the time they reach college. Today, these items are pretty basic. The must-haves you may already own at home ready to pack in your child’s bag. The rest is up for discussion at the next PTA meeting.