“I did fine without technology in the classroom when I was in grade school—why is it so important now?”

That was a direct quote from one of my college classmates on the first day of our “Technology and Learning” course my sophomore year. I have to admit that I questioned it as well. Up until middle school, I had used very little technology in my classes and I felt like I had succeeded without it. However, after completing the course and spending time in real classrooms, I began to grasp the importance of technology in education today.

Greeneville City Schools students learning with technology 2013-14.
Greeneville City Schools students learning with technology 2013-14.

In my current education courses I am constantly exposed to different ways of incorporating technology in the classroom. For example, smart tablets such as iPads are now playing huge roles in K-12 classrooms. This is due to the hundreds of educational apps that are available to students, teachers, and parents alike. For younger students there are educational games to practice letters and numbers, while older students can find flashcards for math, history, and even SAT practice. Teachers can find many resources including a Common Core app, which shows teachers different programs and applications students can use that match every standard for every grade. Another example is the growing use of digital textbooks in middle and high schools. Some schools today are allowing students to bring tablets or computers to school to reference these textbooks. Using digital textbooks not only saves student’s backs from carrying several heavy textbooks around all day, but they also usually provide additional study resources such as practice tests, vocabulary flashcards, and more.

It’s also easy to forget how much using technology in the classroom can benefit students after they leave high school. Speaking as a current college student, I can truly attest on how often technology is used in higher education. From writing papers, to retrieving assignments from my school’s academic portal, I can confidentially say that I use technology for over 90% of the work I do in my undergraduate courses. College can be such a fun and memorable time, but it can also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming if a student doesn’t feel comfortable using technology to complete their academic work.

Technology is also a major part of many of today’s fastest growing career fields. It is very difficult to get a decent job now without some sort of technological skills, particularly in the business world. Most businesses won’t even consider an applicant if they don’t have a background using popular business programs such as Word and Excel.

Being successful in the 21st century means feeling comfortable with using technology on a regular basis. That is why it is up to schools today to prepare our future generations with the skills they will need to be successful in college and/or career. However, we need to make sure that students know how to use technology beyond playing games and using social media (although today that is becoming more of a marketable skill). Schools need to teach students how to properly format a Word document, create an Excel spreadsheet and use email professionally.  That is why our country must ensure that all schools have proper access to technology, ensuring that every student receives the skills they need to feel confident and succeed after high school graduation.

It never fails to amaze me how far technology has come in the past 10 years. To that end, it’s understandable that many parents and teachers are hesitant about this new “need” for technology in schools. Teachers, particularly those with the most experience teaching in a pre-tech era, can feel hesitant about changing their style of teaching to keep up with the times.  Parents can worry about their children using iPads and computers in the classroom, because, in most cases, they didn’t use them while they were in school. This is why schools need to be sure that they are constantly in communication with parents about why in-class technology is beneficial both now and for the future.  We live in a fast-changing world, and schools have a great responsibility to ensure that the next generation feels confident that they will succeed in it.