Using technology in the 21st century classroom is I think a sine qua non. Students are digital natives. They are born into technology, they use technology daily and different devices are part of their everyday lives.
From a very young age, they know how to use a tablet, for example, and how to find videos that interest them, or even apps that are entertaining for them. Not including technology in the teaching procedure is like speaking to them in a different language. The benefits of using it in the classroom are numerous.
First of all, students are motivated. They are excited about the lesson and about discovering what the teacher has prepared for them this time.
Secondly, they are taught that the different devices they have, like smartphones, tablets, laptops are not only meant for entertainment but they can be vehicles of knowledge. In addition to this, the lesson becomes more interactive because the teacher can create polls or use different apps and have all students answering a question. Everybody is part of the teaching procedure and no one is excluded. Shy students do not have to expose themselves in front of the whole class and this way they are more willing to participate in the lesson. Furthermore, the lesson is much more interactive with the use of videos, podcasts, music and is not confined to books or slides.
Finally, the teacher becomes a facilitator of knowledge and not the omnipotent figure who can answer everything. This way knowledge becomes a discovery process and a very personal procedure and sticks with the students much longer than with the traditional methods.
Of course there are challenges too when a teacher decides to integrate technology. To begin with, the school may not have the necessary facilities and equipment. If the internet connection is too slow or the computers are not very new then the lesson cannot be done because it will result in a teacher panicking and trying to solve IT problems, while students lose interest.
Another problem, is that the teacher may not have the knowledge of how to use specific technology or how to integrate it in their teaching routine.
A third problem, has to do with the students' attitude especially in the beginning of a lesson which integrates E.T. They have to understand that these are all means to make the lesson better and that they are a lesson and not fun time. Moreover, very good child protection and anti-virus programmes should be used because there are always dangers when using the internet.
All these benefits and drawbacks should be discussed from the start with the director of studies of the school, especially if a school decides to use E.T for the first time. Unfortunately, in my own experience the school I work for does not offer a lot of support and I had to try really hard to overcome the different obstacles set by the manager who did not believe that learning will take place if you use technology.
Of course the results and the excitement of the students finally convinced them and now it has slowly started becoming part of the curriculum. But it surely needs patience and a lot of effort and even some research to try and find decent equipment in a reasonable price.
A question that might arise is "Alright Emmanuel, I agree with you that technology is important but how am I supposed to use it? Where should I start? Maybe you have studied something relevant to technology but I do not have the time for that."
I have to confess that I did not have any formal training on how to use technology in my teaching. I decided to integrate technology after a talk I attended in a seminar where I was convinced about how much more interesting a lesson can become and that that is the language of our students. So I started searching for information and I discovered so many wonderful resources, both from the British Council and elsewhere. There are also YouTube videos, forums and free online webinars from which you can learn the basics. And then it is in your hands to develop that; to spend some more time finding more things and thinking of your own teaching situation and of what would be appropriate for your students. Also, it is a very good opportunity to work closer with the IT teachers, who are very willing, at least in my case, to provide guidance and support.
In conclusion, technology is the language of our students and if we want them to achieve their purpose we should learn to speak their language because otherwise we will just become irrelevant.