Integrating Technology with Student-Centered Learning

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Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Student-centered learning focuses on educational principles and practices that include providing all students with equal access to the knowledge and skills needed for college and the workforce in the 21st century, aligning learning principles and curriculum with current research on how people learn and focusing on the mastery of skills and knowledge.

Despite the availability of technology in schools today, it has not been widely integrated into the learning experience. A recent survey of more than 1,000 high school teachers, information technology (IT) staff and students shows that only 8 percent of teachers fully integrate technology into the classroom environment. In addition, 43 percent of students feel unprepared to use technology as they look ahead to higher education and entering the workforce.

Still, technology offers countless possibilities. Technology can help diagnose and address the needs of individuals. It can help equip teachers to assess an individual student’s strengths and needs. Technology can also equip students with the skills that are essential for life and work in today’s global society.

Technology also provides for a more active learning experience for students. Technology allows students to organize their learning process independently. This causes students to become more active users as a result of the use of technology.

Some schools, however, have taken the initiative to use more technology in the classroom.

High Tech High (HTH) is a network of K-12 charter schools where the program and curriculum are based around personalization with strong student and faculty collaboration. The school places a particular emphasis on community service and internships. HTH also boasts a common intellectual mission based on a “technical” foundation, real-world career skills and a college prep education. Technology enables many of HTH’s innovative practices. For example, to aid classroom learning, schools have Specialty Labs dedicated to a variety of different subject areas including biotechnology and robotics.

Quest to Learn, a new public school in New York, has designed an integrated game-based curriculum that meets state and national standards, while focusing on game-design and systems thinking. In order to achieve this, subject areas like science, language arts, math and social studies are blended together into domains.

Despite the great potential of technology, it poses some challenges as well. In many instances, the culture and structure of schools do not support specific uses of technology. In addition, oftentimes teachers do not have enough confidence in their technology skills to fully integrate them into the classroom and to teach the skills to their students.

Researchers concluded that technology is critical, but a more targeted analysis is needed. Researchers say that technology, when done right, provides an invaluable way to deliver more personalized learning in a cost-effective way. They say technology can also provide high-quality, ongoing feedback to teachers and students that can help guide the learning process. Furthermore, technology can be designed to provide adaptive learning and assessment experiences for students.

Researchers note that it is still not clear, for example, which types of learners are most successful using online learning. The report concludes that deeper analysis of outcomes for different student subgroups is needed before specific technology enhanced instructional practices can be successful at reducing existing performance gaps.

For the full, free 78-page report click here