The Evolving Classroom – Part 1

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ Sep 13, 2018

Back-to-school

Mothers start to develop knots of stress, and get their jollies too, around early August, as ‘back-to-school’ signage and dark black arrows lead them to the end of their local Target store. Another school year is here, and you give credit to yourself for starting prep work early, only to realize that the ‘yellow plastic folder with prongs’ is already out of stock. And is there a headphone on the supplies list for your first grader? Why?

The dust starts to settle on the back-to-school preparations with classroom open house or meet-and-greet, and finishes with the first-day-send-off pictures posted on social media.

Barely two weeks into the new school year, and notice how the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) of your child’s school is updating it’s social media page regularly to keep us posted on miscellaneous school activities and events. A SignUpGenius online collaborative sheet, requesting volunteers for the year’s first bookfair, awaits your attention.

Paper reminders and agendas are co-existing with apps and social media to facilitate communication between parents, students and teachers. Class teachers are actively integrating technology to communicate with parents. A common example is an app called Remind, which teachers use to send important reminders to parents like class photos or school field trip dates. Another app called Bloomz is geared more for building a virtual parent-teacher community. Moderated by the class teacher, the app allows her to post in-classroom pictures, invite parents for classroom events, and initiate discussions between parents.

Wade through your child’s classroom and you realize how different it is from the one you remember from your memory. A media center with laptops, desktops, and digital projectors are prominent in every classroom, starting from as young as kindergarten.

Digital technologies and eLearning tools have been seamlessly incorporated within a child’s daily class routine. He has multiple opportunities during the day to come face to face with technology, either completing daily tasks or using free time to practice reading or math skills.

Tests are conducted electronically, teachers provide links to online practice sheets and reading materials, and audio reading software and iStation (software for reading, comprehension and logical reasoning based games) are options during choice time. Remember the headphone on the supplies list? It is certainly worth being on the list.

It is also nearly impossible to miss your child’s grade, report card or attendance as most school districts now have a centralized family portal where this information is uploaded periodically on a secure network. And we haven’t even begun to talk about how technology is integral to learning at middle and high school.

The vision for technology adoption at schools across the world hinges on a crucial fact that skills required for success of our children in the changing world cannot be acquired by traditional forms of learning like blackboard and paper alone. While it is imperative that rudimentary forms of learning remain, in order to cultivate future-ready skills like collaboration and critical thinking, schools have been working comprehensively toward establishing technology at the core of its curriculum.

Even though technology is starting to find its rightful place in classrooms globally, opinion leaders feel the adoption has been sluggish, with a need to ramp up how technology is being leveraged for children and teens.

In his book, ‘The Global Achievement Gap,’ Dr Tony Wagner talks about the seven ‘survival skills’ necessary for students to be successful in today’s global knowledge economy. These skills include critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks, agility and adaption, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective and oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination. He goes on to talk about issues facing the school system today and how it needs to change.

Can technology help reduce the ‘knowledge gap’ and shape skills necessary for success in the 21st century?

The learning demands of tomorrow need to be fulfilled today. And that effort begins at school. In the next part of our two-part series we take a look at how technology can help children attain future-ready skills and what changes to expect in our child’s dynamic classroom.

Shikha Das Shankar is a freelance storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she loves hiking with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.