Society is becoming ever more digital and connected. Almost every person interacts with some form of technology throughout the day. Young children are now more proficient at using various mediums of technology compared to their parents. Whether we realise it or not, we are constantly processing information and continuously learning. This rise in the use of technology has led education institutions to integrate technology into the learning process as much as possible. So what types of technology can be used in the classroom and what are the advantages? What has research found, and what can first-hand experiences of teachers, tell us? How can we use technology in the classroom to improve cognition, academic achievement and overcome learning difficulties?

Types of technology in the classroom

  • Computers
  • SMART board
  • Mobile devices – smartphones and tablets (iPad)
  • Website platforms such as YouTube
  • Software packages such as Microsoft office
  • Apps – educational gaming apps are often used by teachers

Using technology in the classroom allows students to work and learn at their own pace. Using tablets/iPads keeps children motivated and engaged in learning, and also helps to improve fine motor skills (Aronin & Flyod 2013). This medium of technology can be incredibly useful to students with speech/expressive language impairments as they can communicate and have complex thought patterns.

Assistive Technology

Technology in the classroom can be used in an assistive capacity, referred to as assistive technology. The definition of Assistive technology is ‘A device that maintains or improves capabilities of individuals with disabilities’. Assistive technology in the classroom can increase students’ independence, improve self-management of behaviour and behaviour modification, improve learning, teach new skills, and improve communication and interaction. (Templeton 2008; Mechling 2009; Sze 2009). Technology can play a prosthetic role in development in early infancy. It can also help students with mild learning and cognitive difficulties such as problems with memory, thinking, attention, reading, writing, and math.

(See more about Dyscalculia in children)

Experiential Learning

Technology in the classroom encourages experiential learning; ‘learning by doing’. It makes learning seamless as students are able to gain instant feedback about their performance, thus making the learning process immediate, authentic, efficient and convenient. Researchers Lai, Yang, Chen, Ho and Chan (2007) tested this. They split students into two groups, giving group A a PDA to supplement learning and keeping group B as a control group with standard learning methods. Researchers found the PDA group of students scored higher on tests compared to the control group. This shows that using technology in the classroom can aid academic achievement. Researchers Yang and Chen (2006) looked at the use of internet tools in language learning and found it to be effective, as it increased students’ interactivity, provided immediate feedback and enabled students to gain more diverse and practical knowledge. The researchers went one step further and found technology to be more effective than traditional learning methods.

Technology in the classroom
Technology in the classroom and academic achievement

Technology and Academic achievement

On the other hand, research shows that the link between using technology in the classroom and academic achievement isn’t so straightforward. Freid (2006) looked at the use of laptops in class. 137 students took part in the experiment. It was found that laptops didn’t improve academic achievement, but it did improve students’ ability to multitask. Another group of researchers, Huang, Huang and Yu (2011) found that using web blogs in the classroom, increased social interaction and fostered a cooperative learning environment. These research findings show that using technology in the classroom can improve ability to multitask, make the learning environment more cooperative and improve motivation. All factors which can help academic attainment.

Technology in the classroom and Cognition

However, Livingstone (2012) has highlighted that most of the technology used in classrooms is limited to improving basic reading, writing, maths and science skills. Aside from improving these skills, isn’t it important to train the functions that enable us to learn these skills? Our cognitive skills, which enable us to carry out complex functions such as reading, writing, should also be trained in the classroom, and we can use technology to do this.

This is where CogniFit’s brain based learning tools come in and provide a platform for teachers and students to work together in improving cognitive skills and overcome learning disorders. The neuropsychological assessments and reports can provide teachers with a comprehensive breakdown of an individual students’ cognitive skills, it can help teachers to identify areas which require improvement. The report can then inform the types of brain games that the student can benefit from and a tailor made plan can be put together. Brain training can strengthen cognitive functions that have been associated with poor academic performance, meaning the student is able to fulfill their learning potential.

Technology in the classroom
Technology in the classroom

A Teacher’s view

Now that we know what the research says about the advantages of using technology in the classroom, let’s turn to the thoughts of two different teachers on the subject. Below are the views of two different teachers, both teach in the UK. I asked them whether they thought technology was beneficial in the classroom, what technology they used (and what lessons for), whether it is a help or hindrance when teaching, and if technology improves academic performance. With the recent launch of CogniFit’s neuroeducation platform for teachers, I asked both teachers their views on the use of neuroscience and brain training tools in the classroom.

Nikita Lally is a primary school teacher in the UK, and teaches 5-10-year-olds

Nikita studied psychology and education studies and has successfully completed her Postgraduate certificate in education or PGCE.

Nikita’s thoughts on the advantages of technology in the classroom:

“I think the use of technology is beneficial as we live in a technological age, it is important to incorporate technology into education. It can speed up tasks that without technology may take longer, e.g. when giving out sheets to students to read from this can easily be accessed via an iPad. Apart from the obvious programmes belonging to Microsoft whereby they can create presentations, posters, documents etc., there are other programmes such as Scratch– which is a programming software for children to gain an understanding of algorithms. We also use a programme called Sketch Up which allows the children to create 3D model blueprints of something they may be creating in DT.”

 “Technology is used amongst all subjects; we try to ensure that is “cross-curricula”. By this, it means that throughout all subjects, technology is used, whether this is through the use of iPads and computers for research, or creating projects/blogs online. Technology can be its own worst enemy. It can sometimes be more of a hindrance, for example if the school network is playing up you will find there to be a panic amongst the school as it is heavily depended on. In relation to students and technology as much as it can enhance their learning it can also distract them, with children belonging to this age of technology they know a lot more and can work their way much quicker around a computer and therefore sometimes can go onto things they maybe shouldn’t. “

Can technology improve academic performance?

“This all depends on the learner. Different children have different means of learning, for those children that require visual stimulation then technology may be a suitable approach. But it is my belief for the vast majority that technology can enhance learning.”

What are your thoughts on CogniFit’s neuroeducation programme?

“This seems very interesting and it looks like it would be beneficial to teachers when aiming their teaching towards their pupils. It gives a summary break down of own an individual child learns, which enables the teacher to tailor their education to suit them.”

Abbie Stanley is an early year’s teacher in the UK

She has a degree in Early Primary Education. Abbie has been an early year’s teacher for 3 years and has a specific interest in making learning accessible for all children, including those with special education needs and children who have English as an additional language.  Abbie’s interest arises from training within schools which specialize in learning for children with special educational needs and working in areas which are rich in culture and diversity.

“I believe that technology can be a great asset in the classroom when planned thoroughly and with appropriate programs. Technology is such a large part of our culture today that I feel we would be serving the children an injustice to not give them opportunities to explore technology. However, as children access so much technology at home it’s also important that teachers keep their skills updated to ensure that we can extend children’s current knowledge. Another aspect to be mindful of within technology in the classroom is that children should be learning from it; it should not be a tool to keep them busy. I believe balance is crucial as children may have too much exposure of ICT at home and not enough of other skill building; leaving the child to have a delay in other areas of their development such as physical development and making relationships.”

I use ICT in the majority of my lessons. This is mainly to explain the learning they will be exploring for that lesson through creating SMART presentations onto a SMART board. Within this, I will often include other interactive resources such as images, video, audio, as well as signs next to words (which are linked to the physical Makaton signing) to support all children to access the learning. The children have time to explore iPads, where we have different Apps such as talking puppets where the children create stories and commentary and the puppets act it out. There are also different ways to access reading materials such as through headphones with recorded audio books and e-books.”

Can technology improve academic performance?

I do believe that when used appropriately ICT can support learning. Especially as it combines so many visual, auditory and kinesthetic opportunities which all help children remember that learning and appeal to all the styles of learning. I do believe it can improve academic performance but to repeat an idea mentioned earlier- if planned appropriately and meaningfully. It should not replace a teacher it should be an aid to make a teacher even more effective, as the best resource for a child is that teacher.

What are your thoughts on CogniFit’s neuroeducation programme?

The concept of using neuroscience techniques in school is now becoming more popular and rightly so. People are now becoming interested in why a child might behave the way they do or struggle with learning and how we can support the brain to learn key information. Therefore, I definitely see the advantages. However, I would like to have more information to judge how accessible CogniFit would be for younger children.”

And there we have it! the advantages of technology in the classroom, both from research and from a teacher’s perspective. Although some research links technology and academic achievement, much of the research and professional opinion believe this link occurs because of how technology complements classroom learning. Technology can also be used to tailor the learning experience to the individual. This means that all abilities can be catered to in one lesson. There is no need for children to be split into groups based on ability, which makes learning and the classroom experience more inclusive. More than that though, the introduction of neuroscientific and cognitive based apps and programs means that teachers can help children to identify weaknesses and train them. This means each child gets the opportunity to realise their learning potential.

Published by Rupinder Bajwa

Rupinder is an aspiring Neuropsychologist with a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology. She is interested in how Psychology and Neuroscience can be applied to everyday life. With experience in conducting behavioural and neuropsychological research, she is passionate about using research to improve our understanding of neurological and mental health conditions. Rupinder welcomes feedback and the opportunity to discuss all things Psychology and Neuroscience.