Don't Fear the Future: Parents’ guide to the technology-integrated classroom for the smartphone generation

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Whether parents grasp it or not, modern technology is changing the landscape of education.

Smartphones and tablets are becoming a mainstay in and out of classrooms. Although these gadgets are sometimes viewed merely as entertainment or for keeping in touch with friends, they can also be used as learning tools to supplement students’ education with classroom- friendly apps.

Computers, too, are becoming smaller, cheaper and easier to use at school. Some Bergen County districts are moving away frompermanent computer labs toward providing each student their own portable device to use in school and at home.

Gone are the days when pen and paper ruled the land. Now, computers can do almost any task, from writing an essay to submitting it digitally. Overall, it makes sense to use technology as a learning tool, since most children are already tech-literate. A device-friendly classroom has the potential to let students learn better, faster, and more efficiently.

SMARTPHONES

The power of smartphones and tablets lies in the capability to take them anywhere, ready at a moment’s notice. On top of that, apps are available to facilitate nearly any task, from research, to organization, to collaborating with classmates on group projects.

Students can download anything from an interactive periodic table app to a graphing calculator. Apps can help them remember when homework is due or create an instant bibliography by scanning a book’s barcode. They can also make room in their backpack by foregoing a dictionary, thesaurus, notebook, language dictionary, flashcards and calendar.

When classrooms allow for the use of smart devices, students can access online research materials or take notes, using the power of the cloud to their advantage.

But it’s important that children know and respect the rules of each teacher’s classroom before using a cell phone during class. There are also apps and parental controls that allow parents to keep tabs on their children – just make sure to give them enough personal space as well.

LET’S GET PERSONAL

Some Bergen County schools have already experimented with a technologyintensive classroom experience by distributing iPads, MacBooks or Chromebooks – essentially Google-powered laptops – to students. Results have been promising. In the past, schools have relied on computer labs or a limited number of classroom machines, in addition to students’ home computers, for all technological aspects of the curriculum.

Now students as early as fourth grade have been supplemented with personal devices from local districts, including Allendale, Franklin Lakes, Mahwah, Midland Park, Oakland, Ramsey, Waldwick and Wyckoff.

Benefits of schools using this one-to-one initiative include filesharing between teachers and students and tracking progress. While the computers haven’t yet completely replaced textbooks, some schools, including Midland Park, have online versions available to students.

Another benefit of each student having a computer is that teachers can provide online materials to supplement classroom learning. Notes and lectures can be posted to allow greater collaboration inside and outside the classroom.

Teachers can easily post and share PowerPoint slides, class notes, web links, syllabi and much more to give students instant access to the entire cache of resources on the cloud, not to mention eliminating the clutter of paper in a messy backpack. Now students can no longer try blaming the dog for eating their homework.

More districts are looking into providing personal computers for students, typically only requiring a waiver and nominal fee to cover insurance. So don’t be surprised if your son or daughter comes home from school with a shiny new gadget in their possession.

Although it may seem overwhelming at times, this new use of technology is nothing to fear. Kids are already embracing the latest advancements on a daily – if not hourly – basis, so for them, providing a high-tech classroom experience is only natural.

In the coming years, who knows what the landscape of education will look like? It is an ever-evolving realm, but rest assured, this generation of kids will use technology to the fullest, becoming better educated than ever.

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