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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some claim that technology has shortened students’ attention spans. Others say that it heightens the learning experience. While both comments might be true, technology cannot be stopped. Generations Y and Z are growing up in a high-tech world, and it’s changing the way they learn. Fortunately, teachers are now incorporating in their classrooms many technologies that are actually improving education statistics in the United States.

Interactive Learning is More Fun

If you browse through your local toy store, you will notice that many products are now designed to make learning fun. Think about how infants and toddlers interact with their world. Playtime is their learning time. There are laptops and cell phones for babies. You can buy your young child an e-book reader, and there are a variety of handheld gaming systems for all ages that teach spelling, math and even physics.

Teachers are finding success using a similar approach to learning in the classroom. According to the Horizon report of 2011, game-based learning will be widely adopted by mainstream classrooms within two to three years. Many classrooms are already using web-based educational games which are often free, and many new games are created all the time. 

Some of the benefits of game-based learning include:

- Students can imagine themselves in career paths they might not have otherwise chosen.
- Students can apply classroom concepts to real-life situations, which reinforces learning.
- Students can visualize processes they would otherwise not be able to see.
- Games promote collaboration, communication, problem-solving and teamwork.
- Some games can analyze how students solve math problems and then customize the way information is presented to them. One such program is said to actually predict if a student is going to fail a certain concept and then proceeds to present a more appropriate strategy for preparing the student to learn that concept.

Alternative Schools

Another area where technology has provided new opportunities is in creating alternative schools. Online schooling comes in a variety of forms from for-profit virtual schools that offer full-time instruction, to brick-and-mortar schools that offer supplemental online material, and to charter schools that offer hybrid options of both online and face-to-face instruction.

Using the internet as its medium, online instruction can meet the needs of less traditional students such as:

- Advanced placement students whose schools cannot afford to provide AP courses due to low enrollment or shortage of classrooms
- Students with work release or other commitments that keep them from fitting certain required classes into their schedules
- Students who need to recover credit in order to graduate from high school
- High school students who are interested in gaining college credit or vocational skills that are not offered by their school

Other Educational Technologies for the Classroom

Other technologies that are being used by teachers in the classroom include:

- Video phone services and video chat allow teachers to connect with homebound students, and students can connect with their peers all over the world.
- Social networks which are designed for educational purposes allow students to work together on group projects. They also provide opportunities to teachers for professional development. Some teachers have even started using Facebook as a means of promoting school activities and organizations. 
- Online tools can be used to create digital portfolios of student work. Teachers, students, parents and guidance counselors use a pdf converter to create and print-ready files which can be emailed or file shared with one another.

With a majority of students bringing their own handheld devices to school, teachers don’t really have a choice anymore as to whether or not technology will enter their classroom. However, if teachers will reign in the power of these gadgets, they can become learning tools that will greatly enhance the classroom experience, rather than detract from it.

Author Bio:
Jared Jaureguy is an independent Technology Consultant. You can follow Jared on Twitter @JaredJaureguy.

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