Educational Technologies and Concepts that Every Teacher Should Know: Part III

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While every district, school, and individual classroom operates in its own way, new technologies and education concepts will affect K-12 education across the board. I want to look at these technologies and education concepts that every teacher should know in the third part of this five-part series.

Online Tutoring. Online learning has revolutionized the way K-12 and college students are able to accomplish academic feats, despite circumstances that may have stood in the way of their success. Access to learning materials and even instructors via webcams provides flexibility to students who need options outside the traditional classroom setting.

What about tutoring, though? The supplemental education services industry is expected to make over $10 billion per year annually in North America by 2017, and it’s no wonder. As students face higher pressures in classrooms, companies like Sylvan and Kumon make millions every year by encouraging parents to bring in their students and pay a premium fee to have them tutored one-on-one.

Aside from the cost, tutoring outside school hours is inconvenient for both parents and students who already have tight schedules. After a day in school, kids are not keen to head back into a traditional learning environment, which can mean a lot of extra tension between parents and kids that surrounds an already-anxious experience. No one likes to feel lost in subject material but the traditional tutoring setup is just too rigid to work for everyone.

But what if the same flexibility that is afforded to regular K-12 and college classes was extended to tutoring too? Of course, many online tutoring options are already available but as an industry, online tutoring lacks the sophistication of the larger-scale academic offerings. As demand for this form of flexible learning rises, though, tutoring in remote ways will see a spike in popularity and availability.

Students are already native online learners and virtual tutoring could open the doors for a lot of breakthroughs – and at a greater convenience and lesser cost to students. These emerging companies just need to look for ways to set themselves apart from the outdated model of in-person tutoring to provide the most help and succeed.

Cloud computing. When it comes to greater educational collaboration, cloud computing has unlimited potential. This is true for teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-parent, and teacher-to-student applications. By using a common location, academic expectations can be better accessed, along with actual student work. Instructors can also share learning materials and experiences through the remote opportunities that cloud computing provides.

Simply put, cloud storage saves space, money, and time for teachers, parents, students, and administrators. A report by CDW Government found that over 40 percent of schools use cloud applications to store their data. By 2016, schools are expected to spend 35 percent of IT budgets on the cloud. The savings add up though. Right now, K-12 schools report that their cloud initiatives are saving them an average of 20 percent on IT costs. By 2016, those savings are expected to reach 27 percent.

Alternative input devices. These tools are designed to allow students with disabilities to use computers and related technology easily. Some alternative input devices include touch screens, modified keyboards, and joysticks that direct a cursor through use of body parts like chins, hands, or feet. Some up-and-coming technology in this area is sip-and-puff systems, developed by companies like Microsoft, to perform computer functions through the simple process of inhaling and exhaling. On-screen keyboards are another area of input technology that is providing K-12 learners with disabilities better use of computers and mobile devices for learning.

Speech-to-text options. This technology is making mainstream waves through its use in popular cell phones like the Android-platform Razr M. While it is a convenience tool for people without disabilities, speech-to-text provides a learning advantage for students who have mobility or dexterity problems, or those who are blind. It allows students to speak their thoughts without typing and even navigate the Internet. speech-to-text options can also “talk back” to students and let them know about potential errors in their work.

LAMP. Language Acquisition through Motor Planning, or LAMP, connects neurological and motor learning in a way that makes communication easier for students with autism and related disorders. These principles have proven especially helpful for students who do not speak or have very limited verbal skills. Paired with technology, LAMP principles empower a growing student population with autism to effectively communicate and reach higher academic achievements. LAMP is present in technology – from specially made computers to learning apps.

Sensory enhancers. Depending on developmental patterns, children may need to learn differently than their peers. Instead of ABCs and numbers first, a child with language delays may benefit from bright pictures or colors to learn new concepts. Sensory enhancers may include voice analyzers, augmentative communication tools, or speech synthesizers. With the rapid growth of technology in the classroom, these basic tools of assistive technology are seeing great strides.

In coming posts, we will look at more technologies and concepts that every teacher should know.

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