Research Shows That 1:1, Teacher-Led Classrooms Increase Student Engagement

Today’s technology can naturally fit with the nature of the classroom, help with collaboration and sharing, and assist peer review.

By Bradley Heilman

Humans are inherently social, so it’s no surprise that a recent survey showed that students are most engaged with school when they are engaged with peers—whether in discussions, debates, or small-group work. Student devices in classrooms can be very effective at improving student engagement, achievement, and computer skills, especially when the school has a well-defined roadmap and uses proven curriculum resources. Findings consistently show higher student engagement, motivation, persistence, and better relationships between students and teachers when laptops were deployed to all students.

In a classroom without technology, there is only time for a handful of students to share their thoughts and provide feedback on lesson content. In the device-enabled classroom, with the proper architecture for teacher oversight, all students actively participate and add to the learning experience. Teachers get a better sense of class and individual students’ understanding and perspectives, which helps to guide instruction. This active participation improves the flow of ideas in the classroom and increases student engagement. All students become active contributors to the classroom experience.

A student learning individually in isolation is not an ideal model for most classrooms, and in many 1:1 device environments, educators feel as though they’ve lost control of their classroom as students’ core focus is on the device. This is why many educators struggle to effectively incorporate technology into their traditional lessons. Recent research shows that students expressed “very positive” attitudes about using laptops in the classroom. The study also shows that 1:1 laptop programs helped improve students’ academic achievement at statistically significant levels in English language arts, writing, math, and science.

The Changing Landscape of 1:1

Ten years ago—pre-Facebook as I like to refer to it—we really did not have mainstream social technology. When the 1:1 device model was introduced into schools, it was largely through iPads. At the time, iPads were consumer devices meant to run a bunch of apps—a bad recipe for K-12 in my opinion. Unfortunately, trends went in the direction of lots of apps that tried to teach kids individually, eliminating collaboration from the learning experience. Many of these apps also lacked classroom management features, and could not aggregate data to demonstrate impact, lowering their value in education.

We’re now at a stage where technology can much more naturally fit with the nature of the classroom, help with collaboration and sharing, and assist peer review. Technology makes many of these valuable processes much easier. At the same time, teachers can still autoscore answers, drill, display media, and more. This transition is transformational because now we don’t have to try to change the way humans learn to effectively incorporate technology. We can just insert technology into the process, open up the dialogue, and have access to invaluable data at our fingertips.

Finding the Right Tool for Your 1:1 Environment

The ultimate goal for schools is to find the perfect tools for educators to create a learning environment that fosters 21st-century learning and the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Creating cross-curricular lessons that teach all these skills and incorporate technology isn’t an easy task for an educator. It takes hours to build lessons from scratch, and many teachers are also timid about incorporating technology.

Capstone, a publisher of children’s books, digital solutions like myON and PebbleGo, is aiming to relieve some of the stress and pressure from educators with its newest tool for schools, pivotEd. pivotEd pairs Capstone’s award-winning content with more than 500 pre-built, on-demand, teacher-led lessons that cover science, social studies, and language arts for students in grades 3–6. (Why grades 3–6? That’s when students are naturally developing social media skills.)

The platform seamlessly connects educators and students in 1:1, device-agnostic, and blended-learning environments, putting teachers—not technology—in control of the lessons. pivotEd is social and leverages peer interaction under teacher guidance as a means of enhancing engagement and broadening understanding.

Technology Should Ease Teachers’ Stress  

Teachers are the most valuable resource we have in K-12 education, yet most digital curriculums remove them from their teaching role. Tools like pivotEd empower teachers to control the pace of lessons, giving them the ability to instantly lock, unlock, and deploy interactive lessons to keep students in the moment. Educators can also monitor students’ work in real time.

The 1:1 devices taking care of many logistics that some teachers struggle to orchestrate. With a teacher-led 1:1 curriculum tool, the right materials are handed out at the right time. When students need to share answers with peers, the technology does it automatically. When students need to turn work into the teacher, it happens in real time. Tools offering live response and teacher-led instruction give the educator a much better sense of class understanding than traditional methods.

A recent article from The Washington Post cited digital teaching tools, like pivotEd, allow students to work at different paces, collaborate more, demonstrate what they know in varied ways, and to discover a broader world. It’s a blend of old and new, and makes toggling between traditional and the digital resources easy. The reporter wrote about one class, “In one day, Sanderson’s students might take notes on nonfiction articles in longhand, gather with other students to share information and use iPads to create a shared digital presentation.”

In the real world, everyone brings different skills to the table, and we often work in teams. Humans are social. We crave interaction and collaboration, and thrive when we use our personal skills to solve problems while learning from one another. Research proves that providing 1:1 devices in a collaborative setting allows students to demonstrate what they know and helps them practice 21st-century skills that prepare them for life beyond the classroom.

Bradley Heilman is the co-founder and CEO of Exploros, the designer of the pivotEd platform, and a pivotEd curriculum designer.

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