Whether employed in the classroom or at home, technology has transitioned from a useful tool to an essential one. Classroom setups now feature computers, computer monitors, printers, and scanners as frequently as bulletin boards and pencil sharpeners.
The shift to digital learning means the kind of technologies once reserved for computer labs are more and more being incorporated into classroom layouts, with both teachers and students (and often parents) becoming increasingly proficient in their uses.
The Future of the Digital Classroom
The importance of digital learning in school and at home is underlined by the 2019 Future of the Classroom Global Report, which Google produced in partnership with a global team of researchers, reviewing hundreds of related studies and interviewing 14 global education leaders.
Unlike their parents, children from kindergarten to high school rely on digital skills for their learning in addition to traditional studies, such as math and reading. Some of the report’s key findings include:
Parents and guardians want schools to help students develop strong relationships with technology and be safe, confident explorers of the digital world.
As schools focus on openness and collaboration, classroom design is arranged to support these initiatives. With classrooms being seen as the “third teacher” (following parents and educators), schools are looking to embrace classroom management that encourages creativity and flexibility.
Schools are incorporating emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality, into the classroom environment, enabling more innovative and engaging teaching methods and learning experiences.
Parents and guardians want to be more involved in their children’s education, and technology is being used as a tool to connect them with educators. More than 75% of U.S. teachers and administrators say technology is important in engaging parents with their child’s school performance.
Curricula focused on different areas of STEM subjects to help prepare students to address future challenges. To give students a great start, schools are looking to help them develop a toolkit of technical skills.
With 92% of future jobs globally requiring digital skills, more education systems are focused on helping students develop skills for careers that don’t yet exist. For example, in 2018, Sweden declared coding a core subject that should be taught from the first year of primary school.
Deciding How Computers Are Used in the Class
In a classroom setup, computers might be used as a presentation station by both the teacher and students, learning centers for students, working individually and for small group work on projects, or at a teacher desk, for grading student work, generating reports, keeping records, creating activity sheets, and so on.
If a school classroom library has multiple computers, one may be used as a shared teacher/student workstation in the front of the room, and the various student workstations may be formed in a cluster at the back of the classroom space.
As a good practice, teachers might consider:
Color coding the jumble of computer cables with stickers, according to each associated computer, to identify the correct cables if equipment needs to be moved or fixed.
Tucking wires out of the way, perhaps in “cord snakes” — hollow plastic tubes designed for the purpose.
Dedicating each learning space to a specific purpose — one could be a math/science center, another a reading center, another an art/music center, and so on.
The Home as a Digital Classroom
Increasingly, students may need education technology for use at home, not just for homework but because they might be homeschooled by their parents or part of a remote learning setup with their school. Of course, kids and parents consider having the right tools at home, including a strong internet connection, computer, software package, monitor, printer, scanner, and more.
Setting up a dedicated space: If room at home allows, kids may have a dedicated classroom setup, away from distractions, with a student desk, chair, classroom supplies, and dedicated wall space with a whiteboard and bookshelves.
Limiting distractions: Not only can the delicate focus of kids be protected from barking dogs and playing TVs, but also children can be kept away from the distractions of social media and their app-filled smartphones.
Sticking to a schedule: Consider if too much or too little time is spent learning. You can develop a school year schedule, and stick to it. Keep in mind that with one or two kids learning at home, things can happen faster than in a classroom with 30 students. So, parents don’t need to necessarily keep to the 8-to-3 typical school day but can allow for more breaks and useful integrations with home life (chores can be included in the lesson plan).
Maintaining social connections: If children can’t get together physically for social time or playtime or to discuss homework, their parents may want to consider setting up live video chats.
Getting the Right Computer Monitor
The selection of a computer monitor for the classroom or at home is a consideration for teachers and parents. What size screen is needed? Will it need to handle high-end graphics and video, or is the main use simple word processing and online research capabilities? The list goes on.
Some people may wonder about the difference between LCD monitors and LED monitors. LCD stands for “liquid crystal display” — the active part of the monitor is a layer of liquid held between two pieces of polarized glass. The crystals are illuminated by a light behind the liquid shining through the glass. LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” It is used as a light source in lightbulbs, traffic lights, smartphone and laptop screens, and, of course, monitors, where they are the backlight used to illuminate the liquid crystal display.
LCD monitors have been around longer, so their component costs have gone down, making them an affordable choice. They tend to be heavier, bulkier, and hotter than LED monitors. So, LED monitors tend to be thinner, cooler, and more energy-efficient. They also can support 4K resolution standards, which LCD monitors often can’t.
Monitor size is another consideration. Large screens are a good idea for computers used to present to the entire class and can be as wide as 49 inches. But for most uses, a monitor this size would take up too much classroom desk real estate. So, many schools and parents choose 24-inch monitors and 27-inch monitors. These are available with attractive price options, can make the most of modern resolution and color clarity, and are usually large enough that the student or teacher can open a couple of webpages at the same time.
The offerings of major manufacturers, including Acer monitors and Samsung monitors, come in a variety of sizes and price points. They also have different resolutions, aspect ratios, display technologies, refresh rates, response times, and can include features such as curved screens and built-in speakers.
A Choice of Computer Printers and Scanners
Schools and parents again have a wide variety of choices when it comes to colored printers. They may wonder at the difference between inkjet and laser printers. Both types can output high-quality color prints for classroom photos and other printables.
Inkjet printers create images by dropping spots of ink on the paper. For their part, laser printers produce images by charging paper to attract fine powder toner particles with a laser beam. Laser printers work faster than inkjets and are useful for high-volume printing jobs (including a lot of black-and-white work). Inkjet printers usually cost less and are good for lower print volumes. Inkjet printers can also print on a greater variety of materials than laser printers.
The selection from major manufacturers, including Epson printers, HP printers, Canon printers, and Brother printers, offer a wide variety of printers for all budgets and work volumes, including inkjet printers, laser printers, dot-matrix printers, and others. Many include wireless printing, so the printers don’t have to be plugged directly into the computers to work.
Many are all-in-one printers, meaning they offer printing, scanning, copying, and even fax operations in the same unit, making them multipurpose workhorses. The right all-in-one printer can even allow you to connect to a secure network and share your documents without ever switching printing devices.
Printers with scanners and even dedicated scanners can prove useful in a digital classroom. For example, a teacher might use a scanner to digitize student assignments, so they can keep a record and cut back on the amount of paper they need to file. Or a student might use a scanner at an art workstation to digitize a hand drawing and then complete the artwork with graphics software that allows them to manipulate and color the images, which they can later output to the printer if they want a hard copy.
If art, design, or architecture students regularly create large works, then the school might put in place a large-format printer, which can handle print widths of up to 44 inches. They also can be used to print banners, posters, signs, and even backdrops for theatrical sets.
With all the right technology tools in place, a digital classroom can make the transition from a trendy education idea to a true place of inspired learning.
About the Author
Peter Giffen is a writer, editor, and creative project manager with more than 40 years of experience working for national publishers, major corporations, innovative start-ups, creative agencies, content companies, and SEO houses in Canada and the United States. He currently writes about technology, business, health and wellness, travel, project management, and more.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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