With only about a month before the new year, now's a good time to think about what 2016 will mean for your school. Whatever other changes are headed your way, you can be certain that an increasing emphasis on digital media and content will play a big part in the way your classrooms and curricula develop in the years to come.
For some years, K-12 educators and experts have discussed the coming of “the digital classroom” with many schools deploying various types of technologies in an effort to turn the vision into reality. Although 90 percent of teachers now report technology is having a positive effect on student participation, most classrooms still look the same as they did 50 years ago. But, in 2016, that’s about to change.
Although 90 percent of teachers now report technology is having a positive effect on student participation, most classrooms still look the same as they did 50 years ago. But, in 2016, that’s about to change.
Historically, the classroom has reflected the business world. For example, the one-room schoolhouse for our agrarian society gave way to the needs of the industrial revolution, with students divided by grade level and rows of desks, mirroring a factory assembly line.
Today, workplaces are rapidly becoming collaborative spaces, with expectations employees will work in teams and alternate between leadership and contribution roles. Naturally, K-12 schools are evolving to prepare students for these new workday requirements with collaborative classrooms, project-based learning and the movement toward “learners” and “facilitators” rather than students and teachers.
So why is 2016 the year when digital classrooms make the leap from experimental to mainstream? Although the short answer is mobility, it’s really about a convergence of factors. Here’s what you need to know to help your school make the transformation successfully.
Digital Curriculums Have Arrived. When talk of the digital classrooms began, the vision was exciting but teachers lacked curriculum to make it happen. Then research on digital curricula began and, today, many accredited options are available.
Educator Tech Proficiency Has Reached Critical Mass. Everyone knows that smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed societies around the world. It’s no different in education. Gone are the days when only the youngest or most intrepid teachers became excited about technology. However, this doesn’t negate the value of professional development. Quite the opposite, as training remains critical.
Mobile Devices Prove the Perfect Classroom Tools. Unlike desktop computers, which students had to share, today’s powerful and ubiquitous mobile devices are proving the perfect tools for classroom learning. Whether schools provide mobile devices, or leverage BYOD, there’s no more time wasted fiddling with misbehaving desktop machines.
Instead, today’s devices are fast and easy to use. Want to take a poll? Ask everyone to whip out their smartphone. Need to share a student’s screen to help make a point? Just send it to the classroom projector or flat panel display.
Modern Wi-Fi Systems Provide the Conduit. Mobile devices can perform their magic when robust, secure Wi-Fi networks supply the high-performance infrastructure required to handle the digital load. Fortunately, modern Wi-Fi systems pack the power required. (For details, see “5 Tips for Enabling Digital Classrooms,” below.)
E-rate Supplies the Funding. Unlike years past, in 2015 all schools that submitted timely and eligible E-rate applications will receive funding for their “Category 2” Wi-Fi infrastructure projects. Best of all, this trend is expected to continue in 2016 and beyond. In other words, it’s definitely worth dedicating resources to the application process because the supply of available funds now matches the demand.