Lakehead University Benefits and Challenges with Implementing Technology in K-12 Canadian Classrooms Donghyun Seok Introduction to Academic Writing, ENGL 1015 Melinda Vandenbeld Giles November 20, 2018 Today’s children are growing up in the digital age, which will change the way they think, interact and perform tasks. Overall, there is an overwhelming amount of support for technology use in classrooms with 89 percent of school leaders, 88 percent of teachers, 70 percent of parents/guardians, and 77 percent of students expressing enthusiasm for the implementation of technology in classrooms. Among teachers, 99 percent felt it enhanced teaching and learning, 86 percent felt it increased students’ social and intellectual engagement in the classroom, and 90 percent of teachers felt it improved student achievement (Connelly et al, 11-12). More than ever, the “ability to access information and communication technologies (ICT) is increasingly important to effectively participate in the economic, political and social aspects of the so-called knowledge society” (Chen et al, 4). Therefore, it is important to prepare youth to thrive and succeed in today’s world. This paper will discuss the benefits and the challenges that educators face implementing technology in classrooms. One of the main benefits of implementing technology in classrooms is increasing the level of engagement in students. Eighty percent of students are more interested in classes where they can use new technology and seventy-six percent believe it helps them learn and get better grades (Connelly et al, 12). Research has shown that tablet technologies have increased motivation and student learning in high school students. In a case study that spanned over two years, six teachers observed 408 students over the course of sixteen separate classes. Students used nine different applications throughout the 16 classes, with the most frequently used applications being: Edmodo (six times), Khan Academy (four times), Videolicious (three times) and Study Mate (twice). Other apps such as Bookabi, Google Good Editor, Near Pod, Smart Response Notebook, and Socrative were each used once. After the sixteen classes, every teacher believed that it improved motivation and increased student learning. Among students, 52 out of sixty students said that they would like to use iPads more and 61 percent of students believe it helps them with their learning (Howard and Howard, 67-72). While it is a preliminary study, it is clear that tablets, when used correctly, can be a useful tool to engage and motivate students. Interactive whiteboards are another example of technological devices that engage students, by their visual, auditory and kinesthetic features. In one study, 85 teachers from 170 classrooms used interactive whiteboards, applying three main features: the use of handheld voting devices, the use of graphics and visuals, and the whiteboard reinforcer (applications that teachers use to signal correct answers). Students used handheld voting devices to upload their responses to questions and showed a 26-percentile point gain in student achievement. The use of graphics and visuals also showed a 26-percentile point gain in student achievement. The interactive whiteboard reinforcer was associated with a 31-percentile point gain in student achievement (Marzano, 1). Another useful way teachers can engage students is with educational games. In a pilot study that consisted of 146 Grade 1 and 2 students, participants played Compare Ware (a game that asks players to distinguish two pictures) on iPads and computers over 4 sessions of 4-40 minutes long. The findings concluded that 55 percent of participants showed improved on recognizing differences and showed improvement in reading. Furthermore, while there was nothing substantial on their engagement levels, the researchers did not discount the impact of games on learning and found that Compare Ware was appealing to their participants (Jenson et al, 8-13). In addition, teachers can have students create games to enhance learning. In a case study, twenty-one elementary students between the ages of seven and eleven participated in a digital game building study. The overall theme of the study was “Mission to Mars” with a focus on learning Newton’s laws using the program called Scratch. After building games to educate others, 16 out of 21 students reported never feeling bored or annoyed throughout the process and feeling very proud of themselves when they finished their games. Furthermore, students enjoyed playing and building games so much that they willing spent time outside the study to play Scratch. Thirteen out of twenty-one students downloaded and played Scratch at home and spent time modifying their game or making new ones. All but one student shared their experiences with Scratch to their parents. In addition, it is clear that students learned a lot from playing and making the games. Students enjoyed problem-solving through the challenges and all but one student was able to explain Newton’s laws of motion by the end (Li, 431-440). Technology has changed the way education is conducted today by shifting the focus from lecture-style instruction to an education model where teachers are facilitators. One of the ways teachers encourage individual learning is by providing self-learning modules, which forty percent of teachers provide frequently or occasionally (Johnson, et al, 25). In a case study, 6,500 students in Grades K-12 from an urban reform district (URD) participated in a personalized learning program, designed to assist low performing students. The program consisted of a proficiency-based curriculum for regular students, while students with disabilities had an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which was observed in 50 sessions over an 18-month window. Students became active participants in their learning, setting and meeting their individualized goals, while teachers supervised the students and maintained an environment suitable for the students. More than 25 percent of students showed one or more levels of growth in reading and mathematics by the middle of the school year (Basham et al, 129-130). By the traditional method of teaching, students can be afraid to speak up about their need for help, as they may think that they are progressing with the class. Technology can empower students to take responsibility for their education and learn at their own pace. Over 90 percent of teachers feel it is “very” or “somewhat” important to learn the digital skills necessary to thrive in today’s world. At a closer look, 97 percent of teachers believe it is important to teach students how to browse the web safely, 93 percent believe in teaching appropriate online behavior and 87 percent believe it is important to learn how to verify if online information is relevant (Johnson, et al, 49). Among school leaders who rated skill development in their schools, many noted the huge increases in creativity and innovation (57 to 82 percent), global citizenship (55 to 74 percent), communication and self-expression (68 to 85 percent) and critical thinking (55 to 72 percent) (Connelly et al, 16). While technology may not be the only factor for these improvements, it is an encouraging sign to see such levels of success with technological implementation. Technology has encouraged collaboration in classrooms, as 65 percent of teachers occasionally or frequently break students into groups to match similar learning styles, with Wikipedia or Google Docs being used 33 percent of the time (Johnson et al, 25). In a qualitative survey, 152 K-12 teachers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of technology for peer tutoring in-group work. Teachers listed four main benefits: building competence in technology, building self-esteem, increasing comfort, and increasing collaboration between students. The general theme that teachers noticed was that students “help each other to learn computer skills that they are not very competent in” and that it provides an “opportunity for less competent students to learn in a safe and non-threatening way” (Thompson, 236-239). Overall, teachers viewed peer tutoring favorably, although they had to be mindful about the preparation and accountability of the peer tutors. Role of Technology in Benefitting Special Needs Students Learning disabilities are the most common disability reported by Canadian children between the ages of 5 to 14, at 69.3 percent. This amounts to 121,080 of the children between ages 5 to 14, which is 3.2 percent of all children in this age group. Learning disabilities are significant because many find that they are unable to keep up with their peers and become discouraged if they do not receive enough support (Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario). However, recent studies show that assistive technology has provided students with a way to learn by accommodating their conditions, particularly helping with reading and writing. Assistive Technology for Reading Text-to-speech (TTS) is an example of an assistive technology that has benefitted students with learning limitations by improving comprehension and reading skills. In a case study with five Canadian students reading far below their grade level due to learning limitations, researchers found that TTS made a big difference. During a six-week span, these students used Kurzweil, a text-to-speech software to assist reading. Four of the five students improved half a grade in reading level and the fifth student improved a full grade level. Every student was able to read much faster using Kurzweil, with two of the students reading at double their normal speed and another student reading five times as fast. Overall, all of the students had trouble with TTS in the beginning, but became accustomed to it and experienced an increase in motivation for reading after using TTS (White and Robertson, 1270-1274). Furthermore, mobile e-books have been shown to improve motivation for reading. In a case study with 30 Grade 1 students, the children were asked to compare reading experiences when using paperback books with e-books, reading one e-book per week over a three-month period. Before the test, thirteen students chose picture books as the preferred choice for reading. After the test, twenty-six out of thirty students reported that they preferred e-books to printed books. Many different reasons were listed for liking e-books, such as independence, control and the ability to ask questions during reading. Furthermore, 16 students were never distracted when using e-books for reading (Ciampa, 672-686). This is an astonishing result, given that young children typically have difficulty focusing and paying attention. Assistive Technology for Writing IPads are useful tools to assist students who have trouble with the writing process. In a case study with nine Canadian students (1 female, 8 male) in Grade 6, five different aspects were evaluated: writing productivity, spelling, lexical diversity (how many different words are used), syntactical complexity, and ideas expressed. When using iPads, students averaged 40.33 more words, improved spelling by 15 percent, and eight out of nine students expressed more ideas overall. The use of iPad did not show major improvements in lexical diversity and nor significant improvement in grammatical errors (Corkett and Benevides, 17-20). Word prediction is useful software to assist students with the writing process. In one case study, two groups of participants used WordQ, a word prediction software, and were evaluated in word accuracy and typing rates. One group contained 10 youths between the ages of 11 to 14, who had 1 to 2 years of experience using WordQ. The other group consisted of 11 youths between the ages of 10 to 18 who did not have any experience with WordQ. All participants had neurological conditions. For the first group, mean typing rates were 9.8 wpm (words per minutes) before the test and 11.33 wpm using the word predictor by the fifth day. Typing accuracy for this group was 93.67 percent pretest and 99.49 percent by the fifth day. For the new users, mean typing rates were 9.22 wpm pre-test and 8.92 after the test. Typing accuracy for this group was 97 percent pretest and 99.7 percent after the test. Overall, both groups found WordQ beneficial, as it enabled them to choose from a selection of predetermined words (Tam and Wells, 107-113). Speech-to-text (STT) is also another piece of assistive technology that benefits students with learning limitations in writing. In a case study with three students with learning limitations, the effectiveness of speech to text evaluated total words written, number of multisyllabic words, and correct writing sequences. Through using STT, students showed an average increase of 70 words written, nine more multisyllabic words, and an average increase of 75 points in correct writing sequences. This is a promising sign that students find speech to text useful for expressing their thoughts (McCollum et al, 3-7). Graphic organizers are another piece of assistive technology that benefits students in writing. In a study on the effects of using a graphic organizer for narrative writing, four boys with specific learning disabilities in fifth grade were tested. The four aspects of the test examined: the total number of words, total minutes spent on planning, number of common story elements, and organization. Results showed that students wrote 29.64 more words, showed a 2.18 increase in minutes spent planning, and included a 1.81 increase in story elements (2.91 to 4.75 out of 6). After the test, researchers concluded that teachers should consider graphic organizers for students, as they can help students with their narrative writing (Gonzalez-Ledo et al, 3-11). Challenges with Implementing Technology in the Classroom Lack of training and support hinders many teachers in their ability to integrate technology in classrooms. Seventy-five percent of teachers attended between 1-20 hours of professional development in a year, yet only 49 percent of school leaders and 45 percent of teachers believe sufficient professional development is provided. When asked about the reasons for inadequate professional development, teachers responded that insufficient funding and lack of time are barriers (Connelly et al, 17). Many teachers hold the belief that professional development is the “key to properly integrating technology into the curriculum and to ensure they can have a positive impact in their classrooms” (Froese-Germain et al, 16). One suggestion mentioned is providing online modules for training, as 76 percent of school leaders and 64 percent of teachers feel this will provide teachers with access to more training that they can complete at their own leisure (Connelly et al, 17). This is the next step to providing teachers with the proper training they need to integrate technology in education. Teachers also expressed a need for technological support, as they experienced unexpected technical difficulties at inopportune times. The consensus is that technology is “sometimes more [of a] bother than it’s worth especially when it doesn’t work. You lose a lot of instructional time when you have technical difficulties” (Froese-Germain et al, 16). In most cases, students become restless and are liable to cause trouble in the classroom as teachers try to fix problems. This adds unnecessary stress to teachers who have to decide whether to try to find the solution or to adapt by changing their lesson plan so that time is not wasted. It is important to consider that less techsavvy teachers were more likely to report distracted students, which reflects a lack of training or awareness by teachers (Connelly et al, 19). One of the obvious challenges for providing technology in classrooms is the cost and pressure to buy updated technology. Today, 97 percent of classrooms have at least one piece of technology between desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, tablets, and smart boards. Smartboards (72 percent) are the most commonly provided network device, followed by desktop computers (65 percent), laptops (64 percent), and finally tablets (56 percent) (Johnson et al, 4). Despite this, only 51 percent of teachers say that they have sufficient equipment and resources (Froese-Germain et al, 15). An obvious solution would be to spend more money on technology; however, at a closer look, Canada’s spending on education has increased by 53.1 percent from $38.9 billion to $59.6 billion since 2001 to 2012. K-12 enrollments have consistently declined in every Canadian province, yet education spending per student has increased by 63.1 percent, from $7,250 to $11,835 per student (Van Pelt and Emes, 17). One of the ways schools and teachers work around the problem with access by implementing a BYOD (Bring your own device) program, which 35 percent of schools have done (Connelly et al, 19). However, this leads to an additional problem, as this can create a divide between financially prosperous students and students in poverty. In Canada, 83 percent of all households have internet access, but only 58 percent of families living in poverty (below $30,000) have internet access (Chen et al, 7). If students bring devices from home, this will emphasize the issue of lack of equity and cause students to feel left out. There is no easy solution here, as the only way for equity in classrooms to be present is to provide enough technology for all students, but it is difficult for the government to afford the high cost of educational technology. It is quite clear that technology in classrooms has many positive benefits such as increasing engagement and achievement, teaching digital skills, fostering independent learning, and empowering students with learning limitations. However, it is also clear that there is room for improvement in implementing technology in classrooms. Teachers need to have more opportunities for professional development and there needs to be more technology provided in classrooms to address equity concerns. Nevertheless, recent trends are encouraging and this is a situation worth monitoring in the future.