Why Every Classroom Should be a Smart Classroom

Remote learning has taught us that we need to provide more access to education – and technology is the solution that levels the playing field among districts. While most districts have certain elements in their classrooms that make them smart, the idea behind a smart classroom is that technology plays a significant role in the delivery of education – automating things, such as assessments, grading, and assignment tracking – so that educators have more time to work directly with students. What also makes classrooms smart is the way in which technology improves the learning environment by managing air temperature and lighting. The physical environment of the classroom plays a major role in learning. 

Benefits of Smart Classrooms

Smart classrooms, at their most basic level, foster access to education. From students who can continue learning from home if they are unable to attend (think: lice outbreaks; colds; and other illnesses that would otherwise spread throughout the student population; students without access to transportation; and more) to those students who benefit most from a classroom environment, edtech enriches their education.

Exposure to Technology that Makes Students More Hirable

As we’ve seen during the last year, with the shift to online learning, students are capable of learning how to use the tools and technology required in today’s workplace. Most third graders are at least as adept at Zoom as the adults using it – and sometimes more so. But it’s about more than just the tools; it’s about having the ability to integrate technology, merging these tools with collaborative efforts, project management, learning, and communications, that makes these students even more prepared for the future.

Deeper Learning

With the internet at their fingertips and the ability to take advantage of supplemental audio-visual information alongside every lesson, today’s students in a smart classroom have the potential of learning more about any particular subject. As well, subjects can be integrated with each other. While learning math, you can incorporate a science lesson on astronomy, a history lesson about Copernicus, and a social studies lesson about the Renaissance. Multiple educators can collaborate to bring entire curriculums to life in a richer way than was ever before possible.

Better Individualized Learning

It’s not just students on IEPs and 504s whose learning should be individualized. Every student should have an individual education plan. But that’s difficult to execute when you have 30 students in a classroom. Technology in smart classrooms can help educators provide a more individualized experience to all students, freeing those who can do so to work deeper or further along while providing educators with more time to help those who are struggling.

The smart classroom is the classroom of the future. It’s not designed to replace educators but instead to allow them to use the skills they possess to truly impact the learning experience of every student.

Preparing for the Return of Teachers and Students to Classrooms

For some students, online learning has lasted for a year or longer. Some teachers have likewise been making magic in front of a computer screen instead of a class full of students. So, the return to fulltime in-person instruction is an exciting moment, but we cannot for one minute think that it will be easy for anyone.

Isolation Makes Human Contact More Stressful

Have you seen the film Cast Away? After 4 years on an island, when the character portrayed by Tom Hanks was finally thrust back into society, it was an overwhelming experience. While the situations may not be comparable, it’s likely that both educators and students will struggle to adjust when being thrust back into the classroom. Districts should consider having supports in place for their employees as well as strong SEL systems for students. Ted Gennerman, director of student services, and Emilie Tregellas, school psychologist for the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, wrote an exceptional guide for incorporating SEL to support students and improve student behavior.

Beware the Assessment Drive

We realize that there will be a push to complete a lot of assessments when students return to the classroom full time, in order to determine how far behind – or how far ahead – they are from the standard grade level. While we’d prefer to do away with grade levels altogether and simply teach students at their own pace and in ways that motivate them to learn more and love learning more, we urge districts to complete assessments not to hold students back from their grade level but to identify who needs the most support to catch up.

Forward Progress Must Continue

Even as we return to traditional classroom settings, we can bring what we’ve learned about accelerating and individualizing education into the classroom – and we can bring the technology that helped us achieve it, too. Just as corporations are recognizing the benefit of continuing to support a remote workforce, schools are recognizing the benefit of continuing to use the learning systems and technology they implemented during the height of the pandemic.

Technology Improves Education

Hybrid learning does not have to end when schools open. Consider all of the kids sent to school sick because of attendance requirements who could continue to participate in class from home in a hybrid learning environment. Extending this further, consider the capacity for schools in different areas of the country or world that could collaborate on learning through technology. A recent study, “Learning and instruction in the hybrid virtual classroom: An investigation of students’ engagement and the effect of quizzes,” revealed that the ability for students to relate to their peers, as well as their intrinsic motivation, improved when multiple screens and collaborative technology were in place.

As school districts resume full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is that back-to-school means returning to educating students in the same way we did prior to the pandemic. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.