Home School Management How to Reclaim Technology for Student Achievement – TEACH Magazine

How to Reclaim Technology for Student Achievement – TEACH Magazine


Originally published May 2024

By Kayla M. Perry

I grew up in rural Arizona, in a house ten minutes outside of the nearest town, right beside a river and a forest. This was before the Internet was mainstream in every household, so my four younger brothers and I had to find other ways to stay entertained. And it was great! We would spend hours playing outside, finding places along the river that we dubbed “the rapids” and “fish rock,” or exploring in the woods that we had all to ourselves.

Much of my childhood featured activities that weren’t based around a screen: flipping through my mom’s Oprah magazines when I was sick in bed, or searching for just the right recipe in one of our many cookbooks, or making “back to school” wish lists by circling items in a physical catalogue. In fact, one of my most cherished memories is learning how to read with my mom at age three. Just me, her, the books, and phonics sounds. Not an iPad or tablet in sight.

The Digital Revolution

A lot has changed since then. Now, I am an elementary school reading interventionist, and part of the last generation who remembers what life was like without the Internet. The world is currently in the midst of a technological revolution that has surpassed all expectations, and I’m witnessing firsthand how growing up in this new digital age is impacting our students.

The current generations only know the world as Internet and screen-based. These kids are used to gaining information with a mere tap on a screen. They are also accustomed to using technology to do hands-on learning and calculating work, without having to rely on their computation and comprehension skills. It’s very different than how things used to be done and even more different than how we could’ve ever imagined.

Given this, some people may feel as though technology is taking over our lives and that we need to go back to the analog ways of the past, but I don’t see technology as a problem. Rather, I think that today’s students simply have a unique set of skills—they problem-solve differently and hold new characteristics. Shouldn’t we adjust our approach based on these new skillsets, rather than trying to rely on outdated methods? This way, not only can we better guide our students in seeking and retaining information, but we can also prepare them for the rapidly evolving world ahead.

Proposed Interventions

The first step is embracing all this new technology, instead of trying to take it away. We are living in a time where students are never far from their devices and it’s unrealistic to pretend that this isn’t the case. Instead, we must guide them in using the technological tools at their fingertips for academic achievement. Doing so will not only bring the excitement back into learning, it can also help students take control of their own education.

So what does this look like? It can be as easy as introducing students to programs that track important school-related data. In this way, they can know why and where they are with their academics, using the screens they’re so attached to.

Through my work as a reading specialist, I have seen the value of technology that collects such data, and how it can be used to diagnose issues and ultimately guide instruction and achievement. This systematic approach to learning can get students on track with their academics in much less time than traditional methods.

Online data assessment programs like mCLASS have efficiently assisted me in pinpointing interventions needed for students in the blink of an eye. This user-friendly tool makes collecting data quick and easy, and it stores everything in one place for continual reference. In my experience, the ability to instantly pull up historical data to see where a student is struggling has saved me a lot of time when prepping for interventions and meetings.

Students can be part of this data collection process too, giving them power and guidance over their learning. An example of a student tracking their reading data would be using Google Jamboard to record their oral reading fluency with words per minute and accuracy on a daily digital chart. Or they could use a program like ReadWorks, which helps record progress in reading comprehension. For other classes like math, data tracking could be done using online programs such as 99math and XtraMath that incentivize and give students the fast-paced screen engagement they crave.

Adding Fun to Learning

Other ways to use technology in the classroom could include collaborative lessons through Quizlet, Kahoot!, or Blooket on an interactive whiteboard, where students can answer questions on their one-to-one issued internet device. And these days, presenting group projects is a breeze thanks to casting tools. Pair all this with an understanding of the different learning styles that students hold—kinesthetic, auditory, visual, and reading/written—and it’s possible to create an environment where everyone is able to excel.

Another approach that utilizes technology is game-based learning. This fast-paced, digital framework can be a hugely effective way to help students learn new concepts while also applying their prior knowledge. These educational tools can be used both in the classroom and by the students at home, and best of all, they look so much like games offering rewards and tasks that students don’t even realize they’re learning along the way!

This is seen in a game like Prodigy, which is an independent learning video game for both reading and math. Students create avatars and explore a virtual world, solving reading or math problems to level up and earn virtual currency. The online reading program Raz-Kids follows a similar format, where students read to get currency that allows them to customize their robot avatar and virtual reading room. Lalilo, Starfall, and ABCya! also have similar game-based structures coupled with engaging curriculum content. Students are motivated to “win the game” and are actively engaging with the subject matter that teachers want them to learn.

What’s Next?

The missing component in this technological revolution is incorporating these strategies at home. Students with access to one-to-one devices can now work on assignments and practice content using some of the specialized tools mentioned above outside of the classroom. However, this may look different from district to district and is dependent on a community’s economic state of affairs.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to technology, I feel that I’ve embraced it both personally and professionally. The world keeps changing and technological advancements continue to shape every aspect of our lives, but I won’t let that slow me down or affect my teaching. Instead, I try to be intentional with these new digital tools in order to maximize my students’ potential and give them ownership of their own academic trajectory.

Students have more voice than ever before, and showing them how to use it in positive and learning-inclined ways can empower them to success. (Meanwhile, the only voice I had as a kid was calling up the local radio station, requesting a song, and hoping it would be played. But I digress… Those were the days!)

Kayla Perry is a reading teacher from the Ponderosa Pine forest town of Payson, AZ. She has been in education for 9 years and holds a Master of E-Learning degree to continue broadening her passion for technology.

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