— Lantera Staff
Incorporating tech into K-12 learning environments seems like a no-brainer. Tech keeps kids engaged, teaches responsibility, and encourages teachers to connect with students of all learning styles, not just those who are outspoken or confident in class. It also, duh, prepares kids for their future jobs and careers (there are currently 700 thousand open tech jobs in the US, and the tech boom shows no signs of slowing down). The topic of high-tech vs low-tech learning is an often hotly debated one. Clearly, at Lantera Labs, we're pro high-tech. But for naysayers and those on the fence, we sat down with our K-12 Tech Integration instructor & Henrico County Public Schools teacher Tori Filas to get the lowdown on why incorporating tech into the classroom is a really, really (really!) good thing.
Q: What’s the benefit of educators incorporating more technology into the classroom?
A: When teachers incorporate technology into their everyday instruction, they are providing their students with opportunities to strengthen their 21st century skills. Many of tomorrow’s jobs will most likely result from today’s technological advances. Plus, technology has the ability to enhance relationships between teachers and students. When teachers effectively integrate technology into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of advisor, content expert, and coach. Technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.
Q: How does incorporating tech make the process of teaching easier?
A: With countless online resources like Teachers Pay Teachers, Khan Academy, YouTube, and Pinterest, you will never be without an awesome idea for a lesson or learning activity. Technology has changed my LIFE as an educator! Teachers can use different apps or trusted online resources to enhance the traditional ways of teaching and to keep students more engaged. Virtual lesson plans, lesson planning and grading software can also help teachers save a lot time. Online assessments are also huge timesavers! This valuable time can be used for working with students who are struggling or getting clerical tasks done in the room so you can actually leave on time with very little work to bring home. It has helped me reclaim more time with my family. In addition, having virtual learning environments in schools enhances collaboration and knowledge sharing between teachers. You have networks of colleagues who are ALWAYS willing to help (including me!).
Q: How much tech is too much tech? How do you know when to draw the line?
A: The question I always ask myself is- “Is this tech activity enhancing my lesson or is it the lesson?” Simply putting a computer in front of a student and expecting them to do something on it is not facilitating learning. It is just keeping them occupied. It certainly is possible to create a positive balance between technology and learning. There is no doubt that technology opens bigger opportunities to learn in a fun and enhanced way. Teachers simply need to look a step ahead and think of the best ways to move alongside this digital era without losing touch with their traditional roots. It is a rare occasion that my students are “playing games” on the computer. We are most often using digital tools to create a project of some sort. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for online review games or assessments, I just don’t provide them with opportunities to “browse” the internet for entertainment while at school! The use of computers is simply just another tool in my teaching toolbox.
Q: How does integrating tech differ amongst elementary, middle, and high school teaching?
A: In the scheme of things, I really don’t think it’s that different from Kindergarten to high school. Obviously the complexity and difficulty of the assignment and application will increase with age, and we all know how to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of our different learners. The great thing about a lot of the tech tools out there is that they can be modified to different aged students with varying abilities. Middle and high schoolers LOVE to play Quizizz to assess their knowledge, just like the younger kids do! People of all ages enjoy showcasing their ideas and creativity through photos and videos. The most gifted and influential producers from Game of Thrones used green screen to film insanely scary dragons, right?! Our students can create interpretations and images just like these in your classroom by using technology apps and programs that you model for them.
Q: Do you have a favorite program to use? A: If you want to get the most *bang* for your buck, learn how to use Bloomz! This one program has completely changed the way that I communicate with my students’ families. It has cut down on my paper and ink consumption, time spent standing at the copier, endless hours on the telephone, and no-shows at parent conference time. You can also use Bloomz to schedule volunteers or request much-needed donations for your classroom easily. Q: What positives have you seen as you’ve integrated tech into your classroom? A: So many!!! My students have most always been highly engaged in my classroom, but adding technology to the mix brings their excitement about school to a whole new level. Having my students move away from typical paper & pencil assignments has made them more attentive, more creative, and certainly more active in their own learning. Also, I’m big on collaboration in my classroom. I feel that the activities that I provide to my students are strengthening their communication skills and helping them to become better, more cooperative learners. I am able to incorporate deeper learning activities to enrich the lives of my students, especially the ones that have limited life experiences, and enhance their critical thinking. Check out the syllabus for Tori's K-12 Tech Integration class & sign up for her 2-day intensive on August 13+14!