Roll Them In: Why TV is Still Essential Classroom Technology

Editor’s note: This is a significantly rewritten post we first ran several years ago, updated to reflect changes in technology and pedagogy.

The best teachers understand that even a perfect lesson plan won’t help students learn if they aren’t engaged. Keeping students actively involved in classroom activities that stimulate thinking, encourage interaction and support collaboration gets kids excited to learn.

Televisions have been used in the classroom to augment teaching for more than fifty years for just this purpose.  At first, TVs primarily provided recorded lectures and educational television programs. But classroom tech has come a long way in the last half century. Today’s educators bring new life to the classroom by integrating television with technology to create a more engaged classroom.

The New Age of Tech in the Classroom: Smart TVs, Apple TVs, and Whiteboards

Many of the teachers who bring tech into the classroom use one of three tools. Smart TVs are similar to traditional televisions, but they can connect to the Internet, allowing streaming of programs, videos and apps. Apple TVs are devices that, when used with an iPad and a projector or television screen, can stream like a Smart TV, but also allow all of the information on the iPad to be mirrored or shown on the projector. Interactive whiteboards, while not technically TVs, when connected with a projector and laptop, are often used interchangeably with the high tech TVs, replacing traditional whiteboards and DVD players.

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Classroom Technology Enhances Learning By:

  • Allowing multiple teaching approaches: Not every student learns the same way. World-renowned psychologist Howard Gardner introduced the concept of multiple intelligences in 1983, theorizing that people have at least seven different intelligences that work together. Gardner suggests that teachers pluralize their lessons—in other words, teach important information in different formats: through text, video, music, spoken word, art, activity, et cetera. TVs in the classroom lend themselves ideally to this, allowing students to receive and interact with information in a variety of ways that best suits their needs.
  • Improving flexibility in classrooms: Tech-smart TVs give students and teachers more flexibility in learning. Data, such as videos or photos, captured on the iPad or laptop outside the classroom—by the teacher or the student—can be brought in and shared to augment a current lesson. Conversely, in a flipped classroom, a student can view a teacher’s video lesson on YouTube, Facebook, or an email at home. Students without computer access at home can still see the lessons from a library or classroom computer after school. This flipped concept allows the teacher and students more one-on-one time during the school day. Having access to the teacher’s instructional videos also allows a student to learn at his own pace, rewinding to review material as needed.
  • Providing access to current information: How many classroom science textbooks say that Pluto is a planet? Or that it’s not? Or that, as the latest reports indicate, maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t? Unlike printed material, information online can be updated as needed so students receive accurate, timely information. With new apps developed all the time and new players popping up (such as Google) in the kid-friendly app market, educators will have even more choices in educational tools to use to enhance their lessons.
  • Increasing teacher engagement: Technology, as great as it is, won’t teach by itself. Teachers are the ones who are providing the encouragement and excitement of learning. They convey that enthusiasm, even while using technology. Teachers using Apple TV, for instance, aren’t tied to a stationary spot while they run the lesson. They can wander around the class, with their iPad in hand, interacting with students along the way. This was a significant upside for high school principal David Mahaley. After using interactive whiteboards, he committed to using Apple TVs and student iPads in his North Carolina school, so teachers would have a mobile platform.
  • Sparking creativity: With numerous apps and add-ons, teachers can mix up their teaching approaches in ways that keep students involved. Teachers can use an app that displays graph paper to help students work through problems that are then shown on the screen. They can use the document camera app on the iPad, annotating notes along the way for students to see, or put the image on the screen so students can come up front and take a closer look. By combining technologies, students (and teachers) can consider new ways to approach problems. And what better way to positively reinforce a student for asking a tough question than to immediately look for the answer through the Apple TV or Smart TV’s Internet access and share the result on the projector?
  • Encouraging student collaboration and participation: The first classroom televisions provided one-way communication. Today’s technology-enabled TVs make it easy and more fun for students to participate. When students bring their own IOS devices to school, for example, they can connect to the Apple TV and project their own work on the screen to share with the class. Corey Holmer, a middle school teacher in Illinois, used the Apple TV and iPad technology along with the Comic Life app so students could create comics based on specific words. After the work was completed, students could mirror their project on the screen, so the entire class could learn from each other’s work. For students who might be reticent about sharing their information out loud, this option fosters involvement.

Getting kids excited about learning is the first step of a successful lesson. TVs and other education technology give teachers tools to make the learning experience more relevant, interesting, and engaging.

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