Technology and education have long been partners, but in the past decade or so the pace of technology adoption has accelerated, with significant new educational hardware, software and systems becoming available.
Now more than ever, from primary to tertiary (and beyond), students and teachers are turning to their screens. In fact, book loans at the University of NSW have been declining by about 20 per cent each year, with students instead working in groups to seek information online.
Technology is transforming education by offering new possibilities for engaging and interactive learning. Across the country, most schools have implemented some form of electronic learning, allowing students and teachers to immediately connect to the internet and access information. Is your school tech-savvy? Here are some key indicators:
Interactive whiteboards are prevalent
Interactive whiteboards are a popular way for teachers to deliver info to kids in a fun and engaging way. The whiteboards allow teachers to present multimedia, convert freehand writing on the whiteboard into text and print it for students. They're a great bridge between (literally) old-school and new-school methods and can foster student engagement and conversation more than a personal screen-only environment.
Tablets are common
Touch-screen interfaces and animation provide a great way for students to interact with educational material. If they’re linked to information archives, then they can allow the students to explore the topics that interest them (as long as they're not allowed to roam too freely, of course). From online textbooks to digital tests and exercises, students are exposed to stimulating new ways to learn, across a variety of subjects.
Laptops are standard
Whether laptops are issued by the school or a BYOD (bring your own device) policy is in place, many schools have integrated laptops into the curriculum, installing resources and apps to guide learning (and controls to restrict web and social media access).
Tech smart schools
Nationwide, schools are implementing innovative new ways to incorporate technology into their classes. And it's bearing fruit.
"We implemented a 1:1 notebook program for the students two years ago," says Sam Hallal, school counselor at a suburban Melbourne primary school. "The students are more motivated to do their work and are more engaged with the content," he said.
Sam reckons introducing an ICT program has improved the students' learning outcomes and allowed them to stretch their skills and creativity in new ways.
"We've also introduced a school TV program, where students have access to technology which allows them to create educational videos and share them with their classmates. It's a great way to get the kids actively involved in their learning."
And it's not only students who benefit. New technologies are being applied across a range of learning areas. School staff are using technology to simplify management processes, decrease the time spent marking work and collect data about student learning habits.
Georgia Bradford, primary teacher at Scotch College Adelaide says technology has become an integral part of her job.
"I have a laptop on which all reports, programing, communication and general work are done," she said.
"I cannot do my job or provide the students in my care with the best education possible without the use of technology. It is an important part of their learning and a step towards preparing our children for their future."