Tablets. Smartphones. Social media. 3-D printers. Immersive environments.

The long list of classroom technologies available to support K-20 educators is impressive, especially considering most of these didn’t exist just 10 years ago. While many of these technologies are no longer new to the education market, what’s novel are the creative and innovative ways education institutions are using them to raise the bar on student learning. After all, it’s not the tool itself that matters as much as how the tool is used. A “phablet” — a mobile device that combines features of a smartphone and tablet — may be new and shiny, but if instructors don’t see how it can enhance student learning and meet educational goals, then it’s unlikely they will use it. Similarly, if bandwidth and IT staff can’t support the tools educators are using, instructors will shelve them and turn to another solution. That’s why institutions need to determine “purpose before purchase.” In other words, evaluating what goals they wish to achieve, then identifying which technologies will help them meet those goals. All aspects of technology — goals; cost; use; efficiency; interoperability with legacy systems; and educational, community and workforce impact — need to be considered before moving forward with a new initiative. Only once these steps are taken and stakeholder feedback is considered can education institutions realize the promise that today’s (and tomorrow’s) classroom technologies offer, and start tackling questions such as: How can instructional tools be used to help students become creative and critical thinkers?

How can education TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE 21ST –CENTURY CLASSROOM INTRODUCTION institutions use classroom technologies to ensure students are ready for the workplace of the future and remain enthusiastic about lifelong learning?