Giving Compass' Take:

• After studying two different classrooms, one engaged in personalized learning and one in blended learning, the class with the most success did not replace the teacher with digital technology. 

• Schools need to be mindful of the actual impact of digital technology in the classroom, to ensure it still invigorates student enthusiasm for learning. 

• Read more about how to balance education technology in the classroom. 

In recent years, the state of Rhode Island has engaged in many innovative learning projects. This past semester I had the opportunity to observe two elementary classrooms using technology in new and exciting ways.

One was a fifth-grade class at Whelan Elementary School in North Providence, Rhode Island, that had just agreed to begin a commercial personalized learning program. The other was a third-grade blended-learning classroom at Lincoln Central Elementary School, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

The differences in these two classrooms were stark.

In the first classroom, the students’ enthusiasm for the computers did not lead to visibly increased enthusiasm for learning — unlike the way that the harnessing of technology did in the blended-learning classroom. There were stacks of boxes in the back of the room that the teacher lamented held years of hands-on science experiments, math manipulatives and novels that wouldn’t be used this year.

In the blended-learning classroom, the students used manipulatives, whiteboards, scratch paper and modern technology to solve their word problems. In the personalized learning classroom, the teacher managed the technology: she searched for the right tasks for the students, policed their use of peripherals and constantly redirected attention. In the blended-learning classroom, the students managed the technology, and this freed up the teacher to focus on the learning of individuals.

The starkest difference between the two classrooms, though, was in the promise of digital technology. The goal should not be to replace the teacher, but rather to free the teacher’s attention so that the teacher can spend more time focusing on individuals.

What schools should be doing is providing teachers with technology they can use, supporting them in learning how to employ it, and then trusting those same teachers to instruct students in how and when to use it appropriately.

Read the full article about digital technology in the classroom by Marcy Zipke at The Hechinger Report