How the Connected Classroom is Going to Improve Learning

April 23, 2013 Kitty Shum

The advocates of mobile technology, and technology in general, have continuously tried to disrupt education. Companies like Khan Academy, Creative Live, News Corp, and even tech giant Samsung are using technology in an attempt to make education more available and engaging. Frequently, these attempts to disrupt education take a “Blended learning” approach, which is basically a combination of traditional face-to-face learning and online learning.

For example, any teachers following Khan Academy can use the flipped classroom model: their students will watch a video clip of the lecture at home, and do “homework” in the classroom during the day, which enables more opportunities for group collaboration and discussion.

Increasing student engagement and participation proves to be a challenge because time spent in the classroom has always been the greatest constraint. The concept of the connected classroom allows teachers to create a more dynamic classroom experience and make the most of their scarce time.

Some teachers are skeptical that technology can fix this problem. While technology is not a cure-all, we can certainly leverage the strengths of mobile technology to create a better learning experience within the classroom.

The connected classroom is the perfect illustration of this point: in the connected classroom, every student and teacher will have his or her own tablet. The traditional blackboard will be replaced by a projector or large screen, because the connected classroom is – by definition – a multi-screen ecosystem.

Here are some benefits that the connected classroom brings:

1. Better Teacher-Student Relationships

In a traditional classroom setting, teachers are restricted at the front of the classroom next to the chalkboard or projector when conducting a lecture. In a connected classroom, teachers can control the content displayed on the large screen from anywhere in the classroom via his/her tablet. No longer do teachers need to restrict themselves to the front of the class. In fact, the separation creates a formal environment, and students are much less likely to ask questions or show what they are doing.

Mobile devices allow teachers to roam around the classroom, creating more opportunities to have one-on-one discussions with students and give them more feedback. Teachers would no longer be just presenters; instead, they would create better teacher-student relationships.

2. Instant Feedback

A connected classroom means that teachers will be able to connect with students in a way that encourages instant feedback. A teacher can launch specific exercises onto the student’s tablets and instantly see all the answers submitted by students from their tablets. Based on the answers submitted, teachers can quickly gauge if the class is comprehending the content. The instant feedback loop lets the teacher know if the teaching method is appropriate for the learners and make a decision about their teaching approach and/or pace.

3. Increased Student Engagement

Often times, if a teacher asks a question in class, a lot of students are reluctant to answer simply because they are embarrassed to speak in front of their peers, or worried about giving the wrong answer. This public fear often destroys the classroom discussion and student engagement. In a connected classroom, teachers can ask a question and instantly have access to answers submitted by students via their tablets. With this information, teachers can push an answer onto the large screen anonymously, which encourages interaction without the associated timidity.

4. Fewer Constraints

The act of learning isn’t physically tied to classroom. Learning can and should be done anywhere at anytime, whether through video, images, text, lectures, or something else. At the moment, education is often restricted in the classroom. With mobile devices, teachers can assign lectures for students to view at home. Class time can then be used for discussion, collaboration, practise, teacher accessibility, and feedback. Teachers can also prep for lessons outside of the classroom or provide feedback on tablets.

Final Thoughts

Mobile technology is not a silver bullet: while they are extremely powerful, mobile devices cannot completely replace the teacher. However, they are well suited to make education more accessible and the learning experience more dynamic by eliminating the historical boundaries of time, location, and scale.

There are still some barriers to bringing the connected classroom to life; for example, not every educational institution has adequate internet connectivity, and not every student has the internet access at home. Furthermore, the reliance on a tablet means that students (or parents) need to ensure that the tablet is adequately charged.

These minor roadblocks aren’t permanent. Every time there’s a disruption in education, it takes a bit of iteration and improvement before it can truly make an impact on the classroom. This is the case for many types of progress, and all we can really do is embrace the change that new digital tools and technology bring.

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