Games in the classroom have moved far beyond the pixelated Oregon Trail of yesteryear. Today’s classrooms are capitalizing on modern games, virtual reality, and multimedia content to engage with students of all ages. A new report from Project Tomorrow, a global education nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of student voices in education, found that the use of game-based environments and online apps among teachers has doubled in the last six years.

With the growing emphasis on technology skills in the job market, parents are putting the pressure on schools to integrate technology into the classroom. Eighty-five percent of parents surveyed said the effective use of technology in school is important to student success. Technology is impacting a variety of areas in the classroom, but is not without its troubles.

More Devices, More Learning

The era of 1:1 is over. Students are using different devices for different activities. While laptops may be preferred for writing reports, collaborative learning, and taking online tests, students use mobile devices for connecting with classmates and doing quick research in class. In fact, 50 percent of students are using their smartphones to look up info during class and 39 percent are taking photos of class assignments and textbook pages. Moreover, students are staying connecting with teachers after school with email and texting – 48 percent are emailing teachers and 15 percent are texting.

Parents are on board with multiple devices too. Over two thirds of parents think it’s important for students to have access to a laptop, tablet, or Chromebook during the day and 41 percent of parents would buy their child a mobile device to use during the school day if the school permitted it.

The Gamification of the Classroom

For previous generations, computer games were reserved for rewards or rainy day recess activities, but not anymore. Today’s students are playing a multitude of games to reinforce academic lessons, especially in elementary school. Sixty-five percent of K-2 teachers and 59 percent 3-5 teachers are regularly using games in the classroom.

Across all grades, students believe that games help make difficult concepts easier to understand, according to the study. With younger generations being digital natives, increasing the use of games in the classroom allows the learning experience to more closely mirror a student’s home life.

Coding in the Classroom

The job market’s demand for STEM trained students is far outpacing the supply. With that in mind, schools are placing a greater emphasis on making sure students are equipped with real world skills. The study found that 53 percent of students want coding to be a regular class or an after school activity – with one in five students being very interesting in learning how to code. This trend was even more prevalent among girls, with 64 percent of 3-5th graders and 50 percent 6-8th graders wanting to code.

Technology Hiccups

While technology in the classroom is growing at a rapid rate, its adoption is not without hiccups. Over half of teachers (68%) are reluctant to assign Internet-based homework due to concerns that students don’t have safe Internet access at home.

Internet safety and privacy concerns are frequently cited as the biggest roadblocks to further classroom technology adoption; however, the top concern for parents surveyed was that technology use varies from teacher to teacher, with little uniformity school wide. Perhaps indicating that schools need to develop uniform technology policies to ensure consistent technology use across classrooms.

Project Tomorrow breaks down the study results for parents, teachers, and students.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.