Classroom upgrades for high-tech teachers

 In Hardware, Solutions

When the new school year starts, kids and teachers will head back to classrooms full of books, pencils, and … Minecraft?

With schools going high tech, it can be hard to keep up with what’s new—or know how best to use it.  Using Minecraft to teach STEM concepts, collaboration, and problem solving in a project-based learning environment is just one of the many creative ways schools are bringing the classroom of the future to life.

Here’s what the classroom of tomorrow might look like, and how to start implementing it today.

Technology in the classroom comes of age

Teachers, students, and administrators can all benefit from classroom upgrades in three big ways.

1. Hacking the notebook: The idea of a one-to-one initiative has been around for a while, and the results are beginning to show. One prime example is “hacking the notebook,” in which students are encouraged to use their devices to take notes, rather than the old-fashioned pen and pencil. Hacking the notebook offers additional functionality that wouldn’t be possible with pen and paper, such as adding diagrams, charts, and annotations to transcribed notes.

This approach to updating traditional classroom tools helps teachers as well. Using internet-connected smart boards, teachers can transform handwritten charts into sortable spreadsheets, and even identify the elements of a scientific compound just by tapping on it.

2. Creating experiences instead of lectures: Students are learning to code using color-changing lamps, creating algae-based candy in biology class, and learning about robotics using LEGOs. All of these give students real-life applications to test their knowledge, creating a more engaging environment and driving kids’ interest in the subjects they’re learning, rather than just memorizing textbooks.

Augmented and virtual reality can also enhance the classroom, allowing students to take “virtual field trips” to ancient or faraway places that students couldn’t otherwise visit. It’s another way to provide immersive lessons, transforming students from passive absorbers of information to active explorers in their own education.

3. Combining all your tools in one place: Applications like Google Classroom have made it easier for individuals at all levels of a school to interact. Students can hand in assignments and take quizzes online, teachers can grade papers and give feedback to both pupils and parents, and administrators can transfer ownership of entire classes. These functions keep everyone connected for a much smoother school year.

Putting the new classroom in place

Some of these initiatives, such as one-to-one programs and smart boards, are more mainstream. Others, such as integrating robotics and high-level coding, are slower to trickle into schools. But for students (and teachers) to keep up with the world around them, the classroom will need to adapt to them all.

The size and nature of a school district can require specific equipment, from expanded hardware collections to improved wireless networks to advanced storage to firewalls for controlled browsing. Partners can help you identify gaps in your IT and management, and find funding to fill them.

Familiarity is often another hurdle for teachers looking to upgrade their classrooms. In many cases, younger teachers serve as a disruptor cohort eager to introduce new technology, convincing and assisting their fellow educators who might be unsure how to best integrate a smart board or VR headset into a classroom.

In other cases, third-party professional development packages can be helpful learning tools and a great way to explain the value of these technologies to teachers and administrators. They can demonstrate anything from how to use Google Classroom to lesser-known smart board functions, giving teachers more insight into the tech and why they might want to try it.

Engaging a new generation of students

An estimated 65 percent of students in today’s classrooms will one day have jobs that don’t even exist yet. Many of them will likely be working in areas such as coding, robotics, and other STEM fields—but only if they remain interested in these subjects.

The classroom of the future is cultivating that interest by giving more hands-on, creative assignments, and using a “show” rather than “tell” technique. New technology in schools isn’t just about what’s flashiest, it’s about getting students involved and interested in the learning process, and in turn, creating a brighter future.

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