Using Technology in the Classroom

Technology is an umbrella term for the process by which humans create means to order and transform matter, energy and information to realize valued ends. It consists of all tools, devices and systems that are created in this way, and the underlying knowledge needed to discover new ones. It is a wide-ranging and often misunderstood concept, encompassing everything from a crowbar to a particle accelerator. Technology can also be used to describe the means by which people organize themselves and their environments, such as by organizing a class or creating a business.

The development and dissemination of technology requires a delicate balance between means and ends. Because resources are limited, every technology must prioritize some routes and ends over others. This is why, when a new technology takes hold, it tends to exponentially scale the type of behavior that it facilitates. For example, the widespread adoption of TVs exponentially scaled the behavior of zoning out in front of them, hypnotized by their endless visual stimulation. Similarly, social media websites have exponentially scaled one-way parasocial relationships.

In addition to enabling new behaviors, technologies must also make old ones obsolete. This is because any technology that prioritizes certain routes and ends necessarily neglects other routes and ends, and may even deprioritize them completely. For example, as digital cameras became more popular, people moved away from analogue photography, along with the inefficient but gratifying pathways it enabled, such as the painstaking culture of physically retouching photos for hours.

The history of technology is also a tale of a struggle between two sharply divergent traditions of thinking about the subject. On the one hand, there are those who see it primarily in terms of means and goals, as articulated by scholars such as Aristotle, Hugh of St Victor and Johann Beckmann. On the other hand, there are those who see it as a set of values, as illustrated by commentators such as Talcott Parsons.

There are many ways to use technology in the classroom, and teachers are constantly pushed to adopt new pedagogies. But with careful planning and the right software, it can be easy to introduce a range of new technologies without overwhelming the classroom.

For example, you might use a video-conferencing tool to connect your students with a subject expert, or an app that allows them to collaborate on projects with people from across the globe. There are also a number of apps that allow your students to engage in hands-on learning, such as coding and virtual manipulatives. For example, the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives contains tasks designed for children as young as preschool, and includes tools such as geoboards that can help students understand concepts like perimeter and area. These apps and tools can be particularly helpful to students who are not well-suited to lecture-based lessons. Moreover, the research is clear: when students are engaged in interactive activities, they learn better. And when they learn better, they are more likely to stay motivated and focused in the classroom.