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The Use of Technology to Enhance Classroom Instruction

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Educational Technology, Summer 2018

Not only is technology evolving at a rapid pace, but the ways that individuals and workplaces utilize technology on an everyday basis as also quickly changing. Technology is becoming for most individuals in the modern world a necessary tool for communication and learning. Ultimately, as a teacher, my goal to enhance my classroom instruction methods by integrating technological tools that add to curriculum and prepare students to be technologically aware, but upon which a students success or understanding of material is wholly dependent. My vision is to integrate technology into the lives of my students, while avoiding overwhelming them (and myself!) by utilizing technology simply for the ‘novelty’ of it. By using technology judiciously, and primarily as a learning and communication tool, my hope is that students will be able to function effectively and efficiently in a technological world and utilize technology while not allowing it to overwhelm their daily existence and/or inhibit their academic performance and social interactions. My mission is to provide students with an education that will prepare them for their futures, enable them to communicate and operate in society, and instill in them the critical thinking skills necessary to use technology in a socially and academically responsible way.

The use of technology to enhance classroom instruction is becoming more prevalent in recent decades, and teachers are expected to integrate instructional technology into their lesson plans in order to enhance student learning. As such, it is necessary that teachers keep up with technological developments in the classroom, as well as the technological know-how of their students, who are often highly dependent upon computers and other technological tools (Merç, 2015). While I do believe that technology integration is of utmost importance, I also feel that it is absolutely necessary that the use of technology be judicious and wholly relevant to curriculum. Though I will not be integrating new technologies simply for the purpose of “using” them, I certainly will choose to use technological tools that enhance my materials, and make curriculum more accessible to students. The tools that I find to be most relevant cross-curriculum, that are most readily accessible to students, and that consistently are met without apprehension in the classroom are email, text messaging, Google Classroom, Google Slides, Powerpoint, Google Earth, Interactive ‘Smart’boards and Kahoot.

By using technology as a social tool teachers, parents, and students can communicate and collaborate quite effectively and efficiently. I would like to teach my students technological skills that will enable them to function, operate and communicate with their teachers, peers and (later) employers, and email is most certainly one of the tools that I will utilize. Email is a readily available and simple-to-use tool that teachers can use to enhance communication between parents, students, and the school community. Emails are a quick, convenient, and effective form of communication that can be used with both parents and students, and the technology is accessible to many individuals in the home, or at work, in recent decades. Emails can be sent discreetly to inform a parent about behavioral or emergency issues concerning a child, and are often less disruptive to classroom and work or home environments than phone calls. Emails also give parents time to process written information before completing a response. Communicating by email has been suggested by researchers as a way to improve students’ academic progress in the classroom, and also to create conditions that aid the completion of homework and other classroom assignments. It has also been suggested that communicating by email may even help teachers to deal with behavioral issues, by providing immediate contact with parents which allows for continuity of care and transparency/collaboration. (Chernyshova & Kosaretskii, 2014).

Text messaging is also valuable tool that teachers can use to enhance communication between parents, students, and the larger school community. Much like email, text messages can be sent quickly and discreetly, with very little disruption to classroom instruction time and activities. They also provide for faster response times than emails typically do, and are accessible to a larger number of parents and families than email/internet. While communicating by email can be very effective in the classroom, some families do not have access and/or are not accustomed to utilizing this form of communication. A fact that teachers must remember is that a large majority of parents and families in low-income school districts do not have Internet access at home and/or outside of work hours. A greater number of families have access a cellular phone that is capable of receiving and sending text messages than they do to internet and email (Chen & Pakter, 2013). For families that do not have access to a cellular phone, there is even a program that provides cellular phones with limited minutes (and unlimited texting) that can be suggested to parents, which is called Safelink. All that is required to qualify for these phones is an acceptance letter for food stamps, or one for the free school lunch program and families may receive a free telephone for texting and a limited number of calls each month. Some students love electronic textbooks and readings. Other students have an affinity for social media, and yet others prefer online lectures, videos or podcasts. The bottom line is that while a majority of students today are adept at using technology, not all will find the same technological resources engaging and beneficial to their learning. Therefore, it is incredibly important to include variety in the technology utilized in the classroom. One of my favorite classroom tools, ’SMART’ Boards, are used in many modern classrooms and consist of a white board, computer, and projector that use touch commands to operate. SMART Boards are, in my experience, a highly effective tool for implementing whole group instruction, and for maintaining student engagement during lecture/style teaching. Though I am still learning to utilize all of the features on a SMART Board, I find them to be particularly useful for slideshows and for group work. The information is visibly accessible to students, it is simple for teachers to use the touch screen to move through slides without having to leave the front of the classroom, embedded videos and activities are readily accessible without additional technology, and it is possible to integrate material from the internet into lecture and activities without switching tools.

Teachers can also use educational apps in the classroom, and through their use can communicate and collaborate with students in ways that were not possible just a few decades ago. These apps are often free, and have rapidly become valuable tools for instructors to enhance classroom learning. Teachers can use these apps to practice vocabulary and skills, reinforce curriculum, and keep learners engaged. If implemented properly, the “use of technology in instructional activities plays an essential role for engaging students in learning” (Merç, 2015, p. 229). By using technology to facilitate learning and engagement, instructors are using tools that their students understand and relate to. One of my favorite educational tools, Kahoot, allows for teachers to create online quizzes and true/false games that can be used as formative assessments in the classroom, and provide feedback to the instructor regarding the absorption of classroom material. Presentation makers are also valuable tools that teachers can use in the classroom. Presentation makers such as PowerPoint and Google Slides allow teachers and students alike to create and present original work. These tools can be used cross-curriculum, and students may create their own presentations/materials for a given topic. One significant benefit of these tools is that they are easily shareable. Because of this, teachers may save the materials to use again and again, edit them, and/or tailor to a specific learning group. They may also share the materials with students on a platform such as Google Classroom, so that materials may be revisited, printed or viewed by individuals who may have missed class. These materials may also be worked on by multiple individuals at the same time, facilitating group work and collaborative planning amongst instructors. While not all students have a computer or internet in their home, many utilize technological devices at school, with friends, and in larger society. The downfalls of educational apps in the classroom should also be addressed, as technology can very easily become a distraction for students, and without proper implementation and instructor monitoring, they may be inclined to go off topic or push the limits of rules regarding technology use in the classroom. Another negative aspect, which has been mentioned above, relates to accessibility. A significant concern for economically disadvantaged students is access to digital tools, Internet and computers in the home (Cobb, 2010). Many schools in low-income districts also have the limited access to digital tools when compared with higher-income districts. Additionally, technology is not always reliable or predictable. As a result, teachers must always be prepared with a back-up plan, pre-prepared materials, and a significant understanding of classroom material and topics. In conclusion, it is my interest to implement a technology plan that will improve upon and deepen student understanding, increase information accessibility and promote communication among parents, students and instructors. I will utilize the technological resources that have been provided by my employing school which are most relevant to my style of instruction and stated purposes, but will also try new technologies that may be helpful to students. I will use educational apps, presentation makers and other digital tools to reinforce instruction, and to maintain student engagement.

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