Computers in the classroom are controversial. Some sources say that computers will quickly replace teachers while others think that technology has no place when compared to well-educated instructors with decades of experience. Thankfully, we don’t have to choose one or the other. Computer-assisted learning and teaching can both help teachers do more with fewer resources.
It’s no secret that every teacher’s classroom is quickly growing. With larger class sizes brings many new challenges for teachers, such as classroom management, student engagement, and assessment. Technology can help teachers in many of these areas, and there are many free technologies to help. In other articles, I have written about strategies for using online games in the classroom, such as using games as a motivational tool, as a resource for differentiation, and as a part of a learning stations method. Let’s take a closer look at how we can use computers to support learning and teaching.
Computers for Classroom Management
There are many tools available to help teachers with classroom management. Some examples include classroom websites or an online grade book to help the teacher communicate with parents as well as students after school hours. Additionally, there are also many tools to help with student engagement. Examples include online and mobile-device games that can be played with small groups or the whole class. One way you could use this strategy would be to create simple PowerPoint presentation designed to act and look like a Jeopardy game for content review.
Computers for Assessment
One of the most powerful ways that computers help teachers is with assessment. I’ve already mentioned online grade books where both students and parents can regularly see student grades on individual assignments. This tool can be powerful in opening conversations with students and parents about their progress on an almost daily basis rather than just when quarterly progress reports are sent home. This helps parents partner with the school in being more active with their student’s studies.
Computers to Quickly Collect Student Data
Another way computers can help with assessment is by allowing for low-stakes assessments to be graded automatically without the teacher needing to mark each paper themselves. For example, a teacher could ask students to complete a quick three- or five-question quiz at the end of a lesson to gauge their understanding. This data would be helpful for the teacher to know if the class as a whole had mastered the lesson, and to identify if there were some students who needed extra help. However, a five-question quiz to grade on paper every day would take up a substantial portion of the teacher’s time and make it likely they will not use this strategy every day. If we add computer technology to this situation, the teacher could be able to save substantial time by automatically marking the papers, making it more likely they will be able to use this strategy frequently.
If the students all have computers available, or even mobile devices, the students could answer the questions on the device and the scores would be automatically generated for the teacher’s use. If not every student has a device, the teacher could make use of a bubble-sheet testing system to have the papers graded automatically. Either of these strategies allows a teacher to use computers to decrease the amount of time required to physically mark student work so they can get powerful student assessment data in less time.