Three Tech Trends That Tick the Right Box

1. SmartBoards – An Oldie, but a Goodie

Most SmartBoards in schools can either be found in the janitorial closet, the basement, or covered in posters and sticky notes at the front of the classroom. These SmartBoards, or electronic interactive overheads and whiteboards, were installed or delivered to many classes across Canada, but many ended up in storage or were out of use soon after delivery. Why? Because most teachers didn’t know how to use this technology and simply gave up trying to integrate them into their classroom routine. Why would they have a use for SmartBoards when they already have a whiteboard and an overhead or projector in their classroom? The answer: Interactive learning and seamless integration.

In my grade 6 classroom, the times I lose the attention of my class the most is during task changeovers, or when I have to switch over from technology from the projector back to the whiteboard. As I am fiddling with my HDMI cord to show a video, or becoming entangled in the projector screen cord to display the worksheet on the document camera, my students start chatting, get out of their seat, and I lost their attention entirely.

SmartBoards, with their integrated technology, reduce tech change over time from document cameras, overheads, projectors and whiteboards. Students don’t have the option to become restless or distracted, because you are no longer fiddling with cords or projector screens. Teachers can play videos right on the screen, draw with digital markers over their projected notes, or display images from the internet or draw them for the class. Interacting with your class and showing concepts in written, audio, visual, or video form is the best way to teach a lesson. SmartBoards combine all of those elements into one technology.

An additional invention that would be interesting would be a tablet where the students could interact with the SmartBoard from their desk. This would be similar to individual whiteboards, where students could show their answers or participate in activities on the board.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) – From Alien Invasions to Ancient Forest Exploration

When I took my class to the UVic Digital Scholarship Commons, we had an opportunity to check out their virtual reality room, and explore the Commons through augmented reality. Students could pick from riding a roller coaster, to shooting intergalactic space aliens in the VR room. Most of them ended their turn with a huge smile on their face… and maybe a little nauseated. Virtual reality gives classes an opportunity to explore worlds out of reach on a regular school day. From exploring an archaeological site in Ancient Greece, to a flight simulator across the Atlantic, the opportunities are endless. Virtual reality in my classroom would be great for students to explore the original territories of their relatives, take a walk with an elder through ancient forests, and visit other First Nations groups around the globe. Virtual reality allows students to explore activities and destinations beyond the scope of the physical classroom.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) – When Worlds Collide

While most technology aims to bring students outside of the classroom, whether it be delving into content on the computer screen, or exploration using virtual reality glasses, augmented reality attempts to blend the classroom and technology realms. My class uses an app called HP Reveal, where students can animate or create digital clues and videos using actual objects in the classroom. For example, a map of Canada can have QR codes which students scan with the app on their smartphones to learn more about historical events which happened in each province. Videos may play, images may appear, or audio recordings will play as the app is scanned over the QR codes printed on the map. This blending of classroom and technology is very applicable with the push for cross-curricular activities and engaging students in the classroom.

Another perk about AR and VR?

The varied price point for devices and technology. Top of the line virtual reality glasses and a laptop with a high processing speed are out of reach for most classroom budgets, and more expensive equipment means fewer devices per student. If top of the line VR glasses are not in the cards for your class, cardboard attachments for any smartphone device can be made, which work just as well! There are lots of VR apps out there, some free of charge, and can be used with these cardboard attachments.

Save your recycling! You can find a link to the cardboard VR headsets here
Where in the world are your students? You can access a wide range of VR apps, including Google Expeditions, here

Three Troublesome Technology Trends

1. Generation Z: A Bad Rap For a New Generation

The TopHat article outlining the 5 tech trends to watch in 2019, Generation Z is mentioned as being the next demographic of students. This generation comes after millennials, and have been born into the technological generation. They have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, or technology surrounding their everyday lives. The article mentions how these students will want technology and digital access in all of their lessons, and will want to be connected digitally in school and into their professional careers. They prefer watching videos over text and want digital interactions over face-to-face communication. What I have noticed in my classroom is actually the opposite; students crave face-to-face interactions, written work, and offline tasks because they are so surrounded by technology in their everyday lives. They didn’t choose to be born into a technology-centred world, it is the previous generations that have forced them to be living in the digital age.

With such an abundance of technology around, students in my class are drawn to the good old-fashioned games like checkers and cards – something they wouldn’t normally access at home. When given the choice for a free play activity, a majority of my students will opt for face-to-face games like cards over a game on the computer. I had a student who complained that there was not enough face-to-face communication among his peers and that they only communicated on their apps and phones (he then immediately went back on his phone.. but old habits die hard). There is a desire to connect with folks face-to-face and that is being lost in this generation. It is important to have a balance between hands on, technology free activities, and digital devices so that students remain connected to both worlds.

2. Personalized Devices – Quantity Over Quality

While having a class where every student has their own device would be great, this isn’t a reality for most schools. Commonly, the only schools able to afford a tablet or computer for each student are those which are privately or parentally funded. In today’s education age, technology seems to be the draw for picking which school your child will go to. If you can afford to attend a school which offers devices for every student, that would appear to be the superior school. Schools which aren’t able to offer technological incentives are often seen as less desirable. This creates a stigma between children who can’t help but notice the privileges other students at other schools have, including high tech devices. The quality of education depends on what the students are actually doing with the technology, not the simple fact that each student is offered a laptop upon arrival at school. There is a time and place for devices such as laptops and smartphones, but they aren’t crucial for receiving a quality education.

TedTalk: How to Fix a Broken Education System… Without Any More Money

Seema Bansal addresses the current problems and issues in our education system, and how technology is not always the solution…

3. Wearable Technology – a loss of people skills

Wearable technology can include a wide range of technology, from assistive speech  devices to smartwatches for each student. The first issue that is raised is the cost of providing each student in your class with a wearable piece of technology like a smartwatch. Schools which are privately funded would likely be the only schools able to afford this personalized technology. Most schools are struggling just to have enough desks and chairs for kids, let alone enough smartwatches for their students.

Another issue with wearable technology, is that teachers are using them to interact with their students during class. These watches are used to remind students to stay on task, or allow shy students to answer questions without having to speak out. It is important that teachers maintain that personal interaction between themselves and their students, which has a positive impact on classroom management. If those students acting out only receive a small buzz and a text message to their wrist, this method of keeping them on task will rapidly become ineffective. Students behave best when there is mutual respect and valuable interaction between teacher and students. Using these watches to allow shy students to answer questions will not serve them in the long run. In life, it is necessary to speak in front of a group, and the classroom should be the safest space to practice and become comfortable with speaking in front of your peers. Teacher and peer support in low-risk situations should support and develop student confidence with answering questions in class and public speaking. These wearable devices, if used incorrectly, could act as  a negative crutch for some students and hinder teacher to student relationships.

The Everest Effect: Doing Something Simply Because It’s There

The “Everest Effect” refers to the act of doing something just because you can. People climb Mount Everest, just because it’s there. The same goes for bringing new technology into your classroom. Should you bring in tablets to your classroom, just because you can? I find that with the rush of technology in our education system today, teachers are bringing in all of these new technology programs and devices just because they are offered to them, without assessing the actual educational value of these devices. Does having a laptop or tablet for each student really increase the education they are receiving? Do smartwatches really improve the behaviour of each student in the class, or are we just using these devices simply because they are there? It is critical for teachers to not assume that improved technology leads to improved instruction or learning.

Top Three Education Trends

1. Alternative seating in classrooms including stools, beanbag chairs, no furniture at all, and eliminating rows of desks
2. Twitter for teacher professional development year round
3. Global Connection Apps such as Tik Tok, SnapChat, and NewRow virtual classrooms

Holland & Holland – Acknowledging The Individual

In Holland & Holland’s article, Implications of Shifting Technology In Education, the authors address how to find a balance between the use of technology and other teaching methods. A main issue that resonated with me was the gap in technological knowledge which exists among teachers. With all of these new apps, robotics, tablets, and coding programs being released by tech companies almost daily, it is impossible for teachers to remain up to date on these new programs in order to teach their students. The importance for teachers to fully explore what technology they are using in their lessons is critical to deliver and implement these programs effectively. An example in my own classroom is my Intro to Computer Science course I am teaching this year. I spent some time in the summer completing the Intro to Computer Science curriculum and made sure that I was able to complete all of the assignments I will be delivering to my students. Holland and Holland address the gaps in student knowledge with technology, but gaps also exist in teacher knowledge as well. Before bringing any technology into your classroom, it is important that teachers are well versed and able to fully support their students learning.

It was refreshing to read this article because it effectively weaved technology, apps, and computer programs into learning styles and lesson delivery techniques. The authors explored online programs such as and Hour of Code, but also addressed how to use these programs in a variety of student exploratory methods including inquiry, problem based learning, and global learning. Rather than showcasing the technology or program as the focus of the lesson, it became a part of a larger learning exploration. An example of this was using problem based learning with the support of online programs to solve their larger group problem. In my classroom, I am looking forward to using the Hour of Code from as part of a global connection during our inquiry lesson. This way, the technology is not the centre of the learning process, but rather a part of the bigger learning picture.