Teachers Should Use Coordinated Technology Platforms

LAHS teachers are ushering their classes into the digital age, using everything from Turnitin to homework blogs. While teachers move to a more technology-based classroom, however, they should make sure that they’re moving forward together. At least on a department level, the school should try to achieve cohesion in the platforms it uses.

Currently, teachers use a variety of platforms to help educate students. Some teachers use Edmodo, some use Google Docs, and still others have their students write blogs. The most coordinated use of learning technology is the universal use of Turnitin in the English Department, and even then, teachers use Turnitin in different ways.

English teacher Margaret Bennett also uses Turnitin as a way for students to edit each other’s work. Students can swap assignments they’ve turned in and make comments, which teachers can also see.

This use of educational platforms have clear benefits—students don’t have to worry about losing handouts, and teachers don’t have to worry about whether students actually turned assignments in on time. They require less paper, thus saving money and resources . However, they also require time (and in some cases, money) to introduce and master. Therefore, to minimize the amount of time students have to devote to learning the ins and outs of a new platform, teachers should choose one or two platforms to use on a departmental level.

Both Turnitin and Google Docs offer ways to share documents and edit online. Because most students are already using Turnitin, and the services it offers are more suited to peer-editing and grading, it makes sense to standardize the use of Turnitin for virtual documents.

Beyond using platforms to turn in assignments, some teachers are trying to make their classrooms entirely technology-based. For example, social studies teacher Stephanie Downey’s class is paperless, with the exception of tests. Downey, who uses Google Docs, wanted to get rid of heavy notebooks for her students and train them in technological skills.

However, not all teachers want to take their courses in this direction. For instance, Biology teacher Meghan Shuff said that using paper has certain advantages.

“You’re engaging a different part of your brain when you’re handwriting and your focus is changed,” Shuff said. “So there had been a number of studies that have been done… that your concentration improves your cognitive abilities; your learning increases.”

There is some research to support the idea that handwriting has cognitive benefits over typing. Still, doesn’t negate the efficiency and convenience that learning technologies bring to the table–in the end, teachers must weigh costs and benefits on their own.

Because using technology has both advantages and disadvantages, teachers should have freedom with how far they want to take using educational technology. But when they do use it, it should be standardized.