In an ever-evolving world, English teachers play an important educational role when it comes to 21st century literacy education. Teachers of English must understand the implications of utilizing technology in the ELAR classroom. In addition to the reasoning behind implementing educational technology, teachers need to understand the best practices for doing so and be willing to invest the time to ensure its effectiveness. Implementing technology in the ELAR classroom requires a growth mindset from the teacher.
Students are the center of everything educators do in the classroom. Therefore, student motivation must be carefully cultivated to ensure that students are intrinsically motivated to utilize the technology in order to learn better. A collaborative community online and a sense of responsibility to peers can be effective instruments to that end.
Numerous types of technology can be implemented in the ELAR classroom to develop higher level thinking and learning. Multimodal technologies add new aspects to traditional print compositions and help students envision their ideas in new and creative ways, as well as helping them consider their audience. A flipped classroom can provide invaluable amounts of time for teachers to work with students on higher level thinking skills while in the classroom, as students will be completing the passive learning activities outside of class. Threaded discussions allow students to take in-class discussions a step further by giving them the time to read and think through their responses. Technology also allows collaboration to happen outside of the classroom with students’ peers, families, and outside experts. This kind of collaboration can also help students to understand the technology and the material at a higher level. Finally, publishing their creations online can create authenticity for students and encourage them to create products worthy of being shared.
Implications for Future Research
While much is covered in the current research available, there are still many unanswered questions. There are many beliefs that educators hold that have not been validated by quantitative research. There are also areas in which qualitative research could reveal the best practices.
It is a common belief among educators that focused professional development is necessary in order to train teachers on effective use of technology, particularly new technology tools. There are many types of educational hardware and software available that teachers may not understand how to integrate into their own classrooms. However, many teachers also believe that professional development can take important time away from instruction or other professional duties. A balance must be found where teachers can gain the necessary skills and knowledge for implementing educational technology without sacrificing even more of their time. Research into the most effective professional development practices would help answer that question. Additionally, research into the effect of professional development on teachers’ ability to integrate technology could reveal exactly how much training teachers truly need.
We already know that students learn in different ways, just as we know that teachers teach in different ways. English teachers tend to believe that because students are often at different reading levels, self-paced learning is an effective way to allow each learner the time he or she needs to master a certain skill. Qualitative research could reveal the truth to that statement. Research can also determine if giving students time to “play” with the instructional technology before using it to complete educational tasks may be beneficial. Different researchers noted that students got caught up in playing with the different options available without putting meaning behind them, but as time went on and students became accustomed to the new technologies, they used those same tools with more purpose. It may be beneficial to explore the effect that allowing “playtime” for students to become accustomed to the technology has on students’ end learning.
One of the primary uses of technology in everyday life is communication. Many forms of educational technology allow for direct communication between students and teachers, whether it is teachers sending notifications to students or students sending questions to teachers. However, it remains to be seen how much of a benefit or detriment this could be for student learning. On one side, the ability of students to send questions to teachers as they are working on homework assignments could definitely be beneficial to their ability to complete the assignment, and therefore, learn. On the other hand, teachers are already stretched thin with lesson planning, grading, and paperwork, and expecting teachers to answer student questions from home could be detrimental overall. Additionally, giving students the ability to ask teachers for help from outside of class could also contribute to a sense of learned helplessness and prevent technology from teaching students to be independent. These questions cannot be answered until research is conducted to analyze the effects of such conveniences.
Furthermore, there is a significant gap when it comes to research into specific educational technologies. New tools and resources are available every day. Research into these new resources would be beneficial for teachers deciding which options to utilize in the classroom. This research would essentially never be complete as new technologies are developed and old technologies are changed and improved.
One final area that this literature review was unable to cover is the students’ access to technology at home. Certain applications of educational technology, such as a flipped classroom, are difficult, if not impossible, to implement if all students do not have access to technology or the Internet. Teachers need to be aware of the technology available within their school as well as what the students have available outside of school before deciding on a course of action for integrating technology into instruction. Research into this area would be most beneficial for teachers if it is localized to the region in which the teacher lives.