Educators are rising to the challenge of better understanding the many unique obstacles students face during the learning process, and that insight evolves constantly. Addressing these issues in ways that best serve students is a continuous process. Educators are always looking for new possibilities to bridge learning gaps, including teaching technology specialists with advanced degrees in curriculum and instruction.
During the last several years, teachers have increasingly utilized technology to create greater educational equity for students and increase access to lessons and instructional material. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology proved indispensable for educators to maintain contact with students. As a result, it has continued to develop as a key component of educators’ lessons and instruction.
Here’s a look at how educators use technology to increase student engagement.
Addressing Accessibility Needs
Technology offers many inclusive opportunities for different students. Unfortunately, websites and other digital tools can prove “difficult or impossible” for students with accessibility needs, as noted by the Web Accessibility Initiative and cited in this 2021 post from Edutopia. Educators should take the time to assess the accessibility of learning materials. Online tools and services can help educators evaluate accessibility and make proper improvements, such as alternative text or the effectiveness of screen readers.
Increasing Access to Learning Materials
Accessing learning materials outside of school by using the internet is one of the most practical benefits of technology in schools. Students no longer have to regularly carry a stack of textbooks back and forth between their home and school, as teachers can share with students almost anything they need through learning modules and other tools, such as assignment instructions, lesson plans, reading materials and more. The huge variety of existing digital tools also creates additional outlets for students to engage with learning, as noted in this 2019 post by Digital Promise. They can “create and work on independent projects, research topics that interest them, and connect with subject experts,” among other possibilities.
Creating Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is crucial for helping students of all abilities engage with learning materials. In a single classroom, students might have a broad range of reading or writing capabilities, but instructors aim to elevate those students to grade-level accomplishment. To achieve this, they offer students different levels of scaffolding and support, such as sentence frames, different grouping styles and more. Technology allows teachers to take differentiation a step further. Tools like translation and gamification can help teachers reach students who need additional support and scale their learning upward so they are not left behind while striving for grade-level outcomes.
Using Data for Decision-Making
Technology also allows educators to collect and assess vast swaths of data that would have been impossible to evaluate in the past. Proper analysis of this data, as Digital Promise writes, can help us gather more holistic insights into student health and learning. Being able to simultaneously observe a variety of factors and draw potential connections between them can be a valuable tool. For instance, weighing absences and homework completion rates against formative assessment scores can help “educators to consider why issues may be happening, decide on a course of supportive action, and then use data to determine effectiveness.”
Technology does not automatically fix equity and disparity issues, however. Social factors like poverty and homelessness profoundly affect students’ ability to engage with digital materials. As EdSurge explains, research has shown that “schools in poverty use technology less effectively than wealthier schools, even when the technology utilized in each school is the same.” This issue underscores the importance of not just having technology but empowering users with the required knowledge and familiarity to harness it effectively.
Make the Most of Teaching Technology
In the online Master of Science in Education (MSEd.) in Curriculum & Instruction — Teaching Technology program from Northwest Missouri State University, graduates will gain a comprehensive knowledge of the innovations and possibilities created by modern technology, as well as the necessary support systems and guidance to ensure that all students can make the most of these tools.
Students of the program will learn how to embed technology into their instruction and create teaching strategies that use this tech effectively. In addition, a contemporary curriculum provides graduates with the knowledge and perspective to remain at the forefront of technology to continue effectively engaging and motivating students.