K–12 schools transitioning to a connected classroom model should be focusing on four key aspects, or the “four C’s” of learning, to create a successful learning environment, according to a Cisco report on using technology in the classroom.
For teachers with the latest smartboard or new Chromebooks for students, installing the technology is not the end of the process, it’s the very beginning. Once the classroom is connected, it can be difficult to determine how best to integrate these new tools into daily classroom activities.
According to the report, the cornerstone of becoming a successful learner at any age comes down to the four C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.
“To fulfill technology’s promise of transforming teaching and learning, educators must learn to leverage these tools to engage students and support their personal growth,” the report’s authors write. “Today’s technology-empowered educator must wear more hats to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn in an environment that meets his or her individual needs and abilities.”
1. Inspire Critical Thinking with Ed Tech
A goal for teachers implementing classroom technology should be to push students to go beyond fact memorization and embrace a conceptual understanding of the material.
Of districts surveyed in the Cisco report, 90 percent said they leverage technology for personalized learning. Pairing these education tools with the latest artificial intelligence tutoring can help students develop the critical thinking skills they will need as they further their academic career.
Companies continue to explore the possibilities of education through robotics, like IBM’s Project Debater, which recently held its own against established human debaters over complex topics including income tax and antibiotics in food.
As innovation continues, teachers should be on the lookout for ways to begin integrating these tools to sharpen students’ minds.
2. Foster a Success Culture Using Classroom Collaboration
The new age of K–12 education is being driven by the idea of fostering a collaborative culture to encourage students to work together to solve problems.
Modern classroom designs are incorporating new elements, such as flexible seating, to push students to work together to grasp complex content and become more energized to use that knowledge constructively.
“Regular and persistent use of collaboration or web conferencing technology in the classroom is the best way to create and grow a digital school culture — and thus, a new digital learning environment,” says Renee Patton, Cisco’s U.S. public sector director of education, in the report.
Introducing video content like Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers, which was presented at the ISTE 2018 conference, has inspired students to work together to take on global issues, such as building water purification systems.
Fostering collaboration is not just for students either. Teachers new to education technology should work together to help each other develop the skills necessary to incorporate these solutions in the classroom.
3. Motivate Creativity Through New Ed Tech Outlets
K–12 districts are implementing more tools to encourage students to think outside the box on issues they care about.
At Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, students are given the opportunity every day to participate in “Genius Hour,” where they come up with creative solutions for topics that interest them.
During this hour, students are able to use video tools to talk with experts about their ideas. For example, one fifth-grade class was able to conference with a prosthetics expert after engineering prosthetic tails for injured dolphins, according to the Cisco report.
“Students get so excited about these professionals taking the time to speak with them,” Christy Ziegler, the district’s assistant superintendent for innovation and performance, tells Cisco. “Experiential learning is where the power of the technology ties in.”
4. Clear Lines of Communication Guide Effective Learning Practices
Clear lines of communication are key to ensure students and teachers are able to get the resources they need to make the most of their time in the classroom.
Breakthroughs in interoperable networks have already started to break down communication barriers between players in the education sphere. But building those networks takes time, and proper channels of dialogue should be established as soon as possible.
Learning management systems can streamline communication between teachers and students by analyzing student data to assess progress and provide teachers with insight on how they can adjust classroom activities to help students excel.
This insight can also be shared with other players, helping to create a more well-informed approach to education improvement by keeping all decision-makers involved.
“Analytics and insights can be presented to different audiences — administrators, parents and community stakeholders — using dashboards, including the ones required by federal policymakers for both K–12 and higher education institutions that tell the story of students’ progress,” the Cisco authors write.