Technology is essential for educators today. It first helped with course management and communication with parents, students, and colleagues. Now, more and more new tech tools for teachers are being introduced into the marketplace to help educators with lessons, especially regarding the STEAM curriculum.
The internet has given us access to endless resources. It can be overwhelming. We've all been there – trying to find the best tool for our needs and wasting time sifting through a virtual haystack of information. This post will look at the top ten tech tools that are taking the education system by storm.
But, first, you may be asking what makes us experts? Kai XR is an extended reality (XR) platform, built by educators for educators, that leverages interactive 360° technology to create a digital learning platform that puts kids in control of their educational experience. As a result, we empower students to dream big, develop 21st-century skills, and explore the world around them from the safety of their classroom or home.
We recently attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ITSE) Conference 2022, where we shared our platform with industry peers. The ITSE provides an excellent framework for what standards educators should aim to help their students succeed in the digital age. We learned a lot and are ready to share our perspective on the best tech tools for teachers.
In this article, we'll discuss:
- The growing need for technology in the classroom
- Benefits of using tech tools for the classroom
- Our top ten tech tools for educators
Let's dive in!
The Growing Need for Technology in the Classroom
Most people entering the job market today have grown up with technology. Likewise, students today have never known a world without it. However, teachers are finding that they also need to be savvy when using technology in the classroom.
In 1990, the U.S. Department of Education established the Office of Educational Technology to develop a national educational technology policy and establish a vision for how technology can be used to transform teaching and learning. They also promote equal access for learners of all ages.
The OeT's National Education Technology Plan was updated in 2017 to align with the ever-advancing technology industry. The plan focuses on:
- Engaging and empowering learning through technology
- Teaching with technology
- Creating a culture and conditions for innovation and change
- Measuring learning
- Enabling access and effective use
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the power and importance of tech tools in learning. But other proof points emphasize the growing need for technology in the classroom.
In the 2020-2021 school year, we saw the number of EdTech tools for the classroom jump to 90%. This created an explosion in the e-learning market, and new innovative ways to use technologies in the classroom are constantly being introduced. Some of these newer technologies include:
- Education cloud technology
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Augmented reality and virtual reality
These technologies can support teachers in classrooms to develop students' 21st-century learning skills.
Tech tools can also take the pressure off teachers. With the chaos that teaching during quarantine caused, many teachers are nearing burnout. But some tools can help. Education tech isn't just about teaching the students anymore. It can also help teachers operate more efficiently, access more resources, and streamline learning in the classroom.
It's clear that there's a lot of growth for technology in the classroom, but what are some of the benefits of using tech tools for education? Let's discuss!
Benefits of Using Tech Tools in the Classroom
The benefits of using technology in the classroom are endless. Teachers today have access to many tools that can help them engage students, inspire learning, and make teaching more effective.
Why use tech tools in the classroom? There are many reasons:
- They improve engagement from students. Interactive technology in K-12 education empowers educators and students by providing opportunities to interact in new ways. GoGuardian's 2021 State of Engagement Report states that 83% of teachers report that hands-on learning had a large to very large impact on their students' engagement levels.
- They provide greater access to information. Today's classrooms are global classrooms where students need access to information from all over the world, not just what is available locally or within their immediate community. Technology gives us access to an almost infinite amount of information at our fingertips! Students can now research topics that interest them, access virtual worlds or connect with people across the globe.
- They are proven to help students retain information and learn more effectively. A six-year study of students at the Rochester Institute of Technology found that when technology was introduced to the teaching process, 90% of students said that it helped their learning and retention.
- Students can work at their own pace. Using technology in the classroom can enable students to work independently at their own pace. Some students with learning disabilities may need more time with a subject than others. Delivering education through a technological platform will allow them to take the time necessary to understand the topic at their own pace.
- Teachers can monitor and track student progress. Regarding using technology in the classroom, there are benefits for teachers too! Many ed-tech platforms will track what modules students have completed and even assist in administering and grading tests!
- It improves collaboration between students, teachers, and parents. Because curriculum and lessons can be hosted online, access and collaboration are better than ever. Teachers can use technology to communicate with students and parents, so everyone is on the same page.
To drive this point home, let's look at a story included in the OeT's Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation Policy Brief. It paints a great picture of how technology can help teachers at every level of education:
"Elementary school students and teachers in Albemarle County Public Schools near Charlottesville, Virginia, are learning together as they use an immersive "sandbox" computer game that allows students to use building blocks and resources they discover to create in a virtual environment. Students and teachers use the immersive and social aspects of the environment to develop thinking, research, and communication skills to solve complex problems. For example, third-grade students in one classroom worked collaboratively in this virtual environment with students at another school to build and connect a bridge that was started at opposite ends by groups of students in classrooms that were miles apart. Teachers might feel uncomfortable using new technology tools like this one, but Ira Socol, the district's Director of Learning Technologies and Innovation, says that teachers do not need to know everything about the technology to create meaningful learning experiences for students. As long as teachers provide students with guidance and coaching, and are confident enough in their digital literacy skills to let students explore the technology, third-graders can figure things out as part of the learning process.."
As you can see, technology can create real-life outcomes that positively impact students and teachers. So if you're convinced to take your education tech tools to the next level, where do you start? We have some ideas!
Top 5 Tech Tools for K-12
When finding the right tech tool, it's essential to know your audience! Kids in grades K-12 want to participate in lessons that can get them out of their seats and excited. They'll be more engaged when lessons are hands-on and tie in with their interests.
As a rule of thumb, tech tools for K-12 education should be:
- Simple and easy to use
So let's talk about some of the best types of tech tools for elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.
1. Synchronous Learning
Synchronous learning occurs when students learn the same thing simultaneously - on- and offline. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down schools for quarantine, most education systems had to quickly pivot to synchronous learning. Teachers would connect with students using a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Skype to conduct virtual lessons.
With synchronous learning, students can build the skills they would need to become successful professionals in the world. Many companies are sticking with video conferencing for collaboration and critical thinking. A student's ability to effectively communicate and understand others in this format will be essential to their success.
Two of our favorite synchronous learning tools include:
- Zoom - a video conferencing platform
- Poll Everywhere - a tool allowing teachers to poll and quiz students live
2. Digital Makerspace
A digital or virtual makerspace is one way educators can provide hands-on learning focused on innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. A makerspace is a virtual environment that features a variety of tools that enable teachers to set up lessons for various STEM topics.
Specialists report that makerspaces are especially effective for developing creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. They also empower students to apply knowledge to practical problems, collaborate with their peers, and gain social confidence.
We might be biased, but one of our favorite makerspaces is Kai XR! In addition to virtual field trips and access to the metaverse, our platform recently launched a virtual makerspace, Kai Create! Our makerspaces include unique environments like a forest, blocks, snow, space, and urban spaces. Here, students can use various tools to bring their lessons to life. We've shared makerspace ideas for middle school on our blog!
3. AR/VR Lessons
The augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) industry is booming! Virtual reality for teaching is a relatively new concept, but it's growing in popularity. Experts estimate that revenue from VR headsets used in education will increase to $640 million by 2023. So it's no surprise AR, and VR made the list of top tech tools for teachers.
VR in school bridges a gap in access to critical topics and technologies needed to develop 21st-century learning skills. With this technology, students can collaborate globally with the metaverse. For example, they can learn about urban planning with a virtual makerspace. Or even take 360º virtual field trips to destinations like the Great Pyramids or the Sistine Chapel.
When finding a good platform for VR education, look no further than Kai XR. We partner with programs and schools to provide access to hundreds of virtual field trips, professional development for educators, a metaverse curriculum and lesson plan, and – of course – 24/7 customer support. Our virtual field trips can be accessed from a TV, tablet, smartphone, or headset, providing flexibility for those of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Everyone wants learning to be fun and engaging. Gamification can get you there. Gamification is the concept of applying game-design elements in non-game contexts, such as education, work, and social situations.
Gamification is a hot topic, with many teachers looking to add more fun to their lessons. Educators use game design techniques in non-game contexts, and studies have shown they improve motivation, engagement, and performance. For example, you can create a rewards system that lets students earn points for completing tasks or participating in class discussions. You can also engage students with metaverse games tied to specific lessons.
eLearning is any type of learning that occurs outside the classroom in an online environment. It can be anything from students watching a teacher’s video lecture to taking their final on a computer or mobile device.
You can incorporate eLearning in your classroom by providing students access to additional online classes. For example, you can give students access to lectures from experts worldwide through online learning. It also allows students unable to attend regular classes because of disability or illness to continue their studies with access to more flexible learning options than would typically be available in a traditional classroom setting.
A few of the top eLearning platforms include:
Top 5 Tech Tools for Higher Education
In higher education, tech tools can be a little less flashy and a lot more functional. Students in college have already developed the basic digital literacy skills needed to navigate more complex learning platforms. Tech tools for higher education should be focused on emerging technologies and how they can be used practically.
A few key features of quality classroom tech tools for higher education include:
- Remote access
- Incorporation of top technologies like AI and VR
So let's take a look at some of the more popular tech tools for the classroom.
1. Asynchronous Learning
In contrast to synchronous learning, asynchronous learning refers to when individuals can learn a subject or tune into a lesson on their own time. Therefore, learning during one course can happen at different times of the day for other people. In this case, classes are not taken live via Zoom but delivered through another technology platform that houses instructional videos, articles, or modules.
Asynchronous learning is more common in higher education because students have developed the skills needed to prioritize time to learn and self-guide their lessons. Educators can use Blackboard or Canvas to house all their lessons and track what students have completed. In addition, they can use Vimeo or YouTube to compile video-based lessons. The options are endless!
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
In April 2022, the United States Office of EdTech proclaimed AI as the future of teaching and learning. In addition, one EdWeek survey found that teachers and district leaders expect artificial intelligence to play a significant role in the classroom in the coming years.
AI can help teachers manage their workloads and personalize lessons for their students. For example, platforms are being built to help grade essays, quizzes, and tests. Others are focused on bringing AI and robots into their STEM classrooms.
AI will bring human-like features to future technologies in industries like healthcare, finance, and transportation. A deep understanding of how machine learning works can help individuals navigate the future world.
3. Cloud-Based Collaboration
Cloud-based collaboration is a critical tool for remote learning. Cloud technology can help educators and students store, access, and share files and data in a centralized location online. Parties can access this data from anywhere they have access to the internet.
Cloud-based technologies allow teachers to create virtual classrooms where they can host online classes, create assignments, and allow students to collaborate and share documents. For example, Google Classroom combines Google Drive and YouTube to help teachers create a multimedia learning experience. Other cloud-based technologies could include messaging apps like Slack or project management systems like Airtable.
4. Technology Labs
Many colleges and universities have taken the idea of a makerspace to a new level with tricked-out technology labs. A technology lab is where students learn how to use software, hardware, and other tools to create projects. These projects can range from building robots to creating smartphone apps. The idea behind these spaces is that students can use these tools to innovate in their future careers.
MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab is one of the best examples of a top-tier technology lab. In this space, students can explore topics like robotics, AI and machine learning, systems and networking, big data, and much more.
A few tools you may want to use in your technology lab include:
- 3D Printer
- CNC Machine
Microlearning is an instruction style delivered in short bursts of information. However, with the increase of different, highly stimulating technologies, some find they're also experiencing a decrease in attention spans.
Microlearning can be a highly engaging way to simplify lessons that can build upon one another over time. This can be anything from a TikTok series about the history of the electoral college or a slide show about different architectural styles. Microlearning is also convenient for those participating in asynchronous learning.
Some microlearning tools you may want to consider include:
Bring Your Classroom into the 21st Century
Choosing the right technologies for your classroom can feel overwhelming. Some teachers may even struggle to understand how to use the technology itself. We know the challenges that come with keeping up with tech trends. That's why we made the Kai XR platform easy for everyone!
We also understand that some school systems may have trouble accessing critical technologies with limited budgets. That's why we made sure memberships to our platform are affordable for large programs and schools as well as individual households.
Educators can leverage our virtual reality lessons to:
- Help students understand history and how it impacts the world today
- Guide children through complex math and science topics
- Introduce students to diverse cultures, places, and ways of living
- Give students time to explore the world through play
Our Voyage package includes inclusive virtual field trips, educator professional development, metaverse curriculum, and lesson plans, and 24/7 customer support. If you're ready to take the next step, you can start by scheduling a demo!
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