The concept of “connected classrooms” is consistently a hot topic in education technology circles. In this article, we’ll explore what that means (and what it doesn’t), some critical benefits, and what you can do to prepare your network to take advantage of all the latest technology.
What Connected Classrooms Do (and Don’t Do)
Before discussing the defining characteristics of connected classrooms, it is important to mention what they are not. This educational model does not intend to entirely replace the traditional in-classroom experience by replicating the materials online. In fact, there are demonstrated dangers to over-reliance on technology: a recent study by the Reboot Foundation found that students who used tablets in most classes scored significantly lower on a reading exam than those who never used tablets. This result shows that technology itself is not a panacea; it must be applied strategically and intelligently.
Instead, educational technology should serve as a complementary enhancement to classroom instruction to make optimal use of limited allotted time. For example, educators could follow the “inverted” model popularized by Khan Academy. In this model, the material that traditionally would be introduced in lecture is provided online for at-home consumption, which frees up classroom time for more engaging “homework” exercises in the classroom, which may or may not include additional technological resources.
This approach can help educators emphasize and foster development of the “four C’s,” which are now frequently considered critical to real-world success: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.
Benefits Beyond the Classroom
Teachers can also use this technology to create an auxiliary digital classroom that complements and enhances the physical classroom experience. For example, students who are too shy to contribute to in-classroom discussion may be more comfortable submitting questions and comments to an online study group, in which other students can share answers and ideas under the teacher’s digital supervision. Indeed, as in the physical world, it is imperative that teachers exert a strong facilitating or moderating influence in the online community. This may require additional training to get more experienced educators as comfortable in that environment as in the classroom.
The benefits of connected classrooms needn’t be contained entirely within a school or district. A connected environment can lead to immersive projects in collaboration with student groups in neighboring districts or on the other side of the world. This can provide invaluable opportunities for open communication across cultures and backgrounds, introducing students of any ages to a diverse peer group and world of perspectives that would otherwise be logistically difficult.
Is Your Network Ready?
To make the best use of all available technology resources, it is imperative that all schools throughout your district have ample network capacity. If network expansion is required, this may not be feasible from a budgetary standpoint. In these cases, Champion ONE has numerous strategies and solutions for expanding fiber capacity.