As I look down and swipe the touchscreen of my new smartwatch, I am instantly reminded of how integrated technology is in our lives these days. Remembering back to my early days at Mechanicsville Elementary, I am reminded of trips to the library to use these things called “computers.” Now, two decades later, I’m carrying one around on my wrist. Watching students become absorbed into current technology has always fascinated me. They are always finding more efficient ways to do things. They may not realize it, but they have access to an irreplaceable knowledge of these devices and the software that runs them, and with their help, Hanover County is going to see some major breakthroughs in technology over the next decade.
Breakthroughs are happening every day, and in my second year of teaching English at Patrick Henry High School, I have witnessed this personally. The first day I reserved computers for my class, they came with a huge surprise. We opened up the doors of the cart and pulled the laptops out as we normally would. One by one, the students powered them on, each student carefully examining the device with which they were working. The first class noticed something peculiar about the laptops; they had a camera on the bottom. I will admit I initially had no idea why there was a camera on the bottom of a laptop. It was with true glee that my second class discovered the laptop could be folded in half and used as a tablet!
Last year’s laptops were good, but there was something exciting about having a new set with touchscreens and extra cameras. Seeing the students flip the screens and scroll through word documents with a tap of the finger was one of those great moments in teaching where you know you’re reaching everyone in the room. Eventually, we began writing our essays and doing research for supporting strong arguments and theories, but that initial moment proved to me how important technology is to our students.
Providing the most up to date hardware and physical technological innovations will always be a challenge, but providing the best software is equally as important. Things change on a daily basis, and we never know which smart board or tablet is going to affect student learning, but other integrated programs that improve connections and communication are what will matter more. Programs such as PowerSchool and Schoology are changing the way students can access their academic information in ways that have never been available. Students, parents, and teachers can all look at information in unison to ensure the best chance at academic success; along with those are other programs that can design entire houses or simply improve grammar while typing. Most importantly, these programs are providing students with exposure to the way computers will be utilized in their desired fields of employment.
Real innovation though, lies not in hardware or software alone, but rather in how creatively and effectively they are used. By constantly updating knowledge and skillsets, teachers will be instrumental in helping students use all of the resources available to them. The tall task of being as integrated as the students must become is superseded by the necessity of delivering sound academic content. Though, both can be had with some creativity and a healthy amount of curiosity. By challenging ourselves to find different ways of doing things, we can open the doors for many different types of learners, making the pursuit all the more worth it.
It is impossible to predict what technologies are going to be the most important to future generations, as they will be the ones to invent and perfect those innovations. Thankfully, I can report without a doubt that students are getting what they need. Little things like touch screens and academic software go a long way in providing relevant learning, and when I am able to synthesize classroom content into a technologically driven lesson, I know the students are accessing worlds that might not otherwise be available to them.
When the time arises that they need to use technology, they will be glad to find a familiar space previously discovered in a high school classroom. These computers, from laptops to smartwatches, have become as natural to them as a walk in the park. My only hope is that we will continue to embrace technology for the benefit of academia, and help usher in a new group of young and successful citizens. By bravely implementing the most up to date and available technologies in and outside of the classroom, a new age of learning will truly be available to all.