This is a challenging question to answer here in Brazil, as, unlike many places in the United States, it is unimaginable for schools to provide high-quality devices to every student. Brazil has some of the highest import taxes in the world, and electronics take the brunt of these tax rates. For example, the iPhone 5s (16g version) sells for the equivalent of $1,193 in Brazil, whereas in United States it costs only $649 – almost half the price.
Many teachers here are well-informed of recent technology trends and feel they lag behind peers in the United States and Europe due to lack of access. My advice to them is that there are ways you canintegrate technology without pricey devices.
While they might not be able to use an interactive whiteboard to “flip” lessons, they can still use technology to make their classes more efficient. One of the best ways to do this, in my opinion, is creating a classroom blog. A blog can benefit the educational process on many levels, as shown below:
Blogs provide parents a vantage point to see precisely the material students are expected to learn.
Without blogs, teachers typically only communicate with parents during biyearly parent-teacher conferences or if a student has a behavioral or academic problem. With classroom blogs, parents who want to be more engaged in their child’s education have a simple route to do so.
Teachers can post exactly what they taught that day, and this helps the students who did not understand during class. I remember when I was in high school; I spent half my time taking notes, which drastically interfered with my listening and learning performance inside the classroom. With a blog that re-covers class material, students can focus on the teacher and forget about notes.
Students are also able to make posts to interact with both the teacher and their peers. This is a great avenue for students who have questions about the material during class but are too shy to raise their hand. From my experience as a former teacher, I’ve seen that over-shyness can be debilitating to the learning process.
There are a variety of free blog platforms available that teachers can use. EduBlog is designed specifically for educators, but I also know plenty of teachers who are using WordPress and Google Blogger.
For a teacher who is not tech-savvy, learning one of these platforms may take a few days. But after the initial learning curve is climbed, operating a blog is simple and largely unchanging.
In addition to classroom lesson notes, teachers can post the syllabus, class requirements, homework, or general important notices about the school or class (i.e. weather-involved delays or closures). This can save a lot of paper.
It is no secret, schools use a lot of paper. According to a small survey, the average American school uses 360,000 sheets of paper per year. At five cents per piece, this costs a school approximately $20,000… just on paper.
Also, and more importantly, millions of trees are cut down each year to provide the paper used in schools throughout the world. A class might not be “paperless” just by the creation of a blog, but it sure is a step in the right direction.
Before implementation, teachers should consider how many students have internet access at home. A survey in 2013 showed that 20 percent of homes still are without internet access in the United States.
In poverty-stricken regions, it is likely that a good portion of students do not have internet at home. In this case, it obviously may not be advantageous to operate a class blog. But if this problem is not widespread, perhaps the few students without home access can use computers at the school.
In the private school I work for in Brazil, more than 90 percent of students have internet access, so this is rarely a concern. But in Brazil’s poorest regions, operating a class blog would be impossible.
So while creating a blog for your class may not be as exciting as every student using a shiny new iPad, it still serves as a very useful and often overlooked form of tech integration. In fact, the benefits of creating a class blog likely exceed the features provided by some of the most popular edtech apps on the market.
And it serves as good stepping stone for the day when those iPads do come. At least at that point, students will be accustomed to using technology as part of daily class activities.
Fernando Koyanagi is the CEO of edtech software startup, Appsis Tecnologia (creators of AniMoby), and Technology Director at a K-12 private school in Brazil. He is also a former K-12 technology teacher. Mr Koyanagi also regularly blogs for FernandoTech.com