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Edtech vs. hands-on

2015. december 9.Jessica Mizerak

Often teachers may find themselves in one of two particular camps. One one side, there are the digital and tech enthusiasts - sometimes fully paperless educators. And on the other side there are teachers who are all about hands-on learning.

There are undeniable benefits on both sides, but I have a question for teachers out there: why not put one foot in each camp?

We haven’t seen anyone outright deny that technology is an important aspect of education for students, in its many different forms. Why? Graduates are increasingly expected to be familiar with various types of tech in their new workplaces. And as more and more countries are adding coding to their curriculum, the building blocks behind the tech is also playing an increased role in school and with employers.
Hands-on activities build motor skills from a young age and work a different part of the brain. Not to mention it’s so much fun to build and create things for yourself, creating a great sense of accomplishment while helping students observe and understand new things.

So what are some common benefits?

When used well in classrooms, both technology and hands-on can encourage independence and exploration. They can both encourage critical thinking skills, too.

Hands-on learning is perfect for exploring interspatial relationships, and so are 3D images. 3D models allow students to see things that they couldn’t otherwise get their hands on in many schools, such as anatomical structures, extinct species, and tiny particles, such as molecules.

Virtual labs can help students improve their problem solving skills, and physical engineering experiments can, too.

Both teaching methods gives students the opportunity to be more direct participants in lessons. Not only that, but both methods can help improve verbal communication skills and associative thinking, increase proficiency in group work and decision-making, and - last, but not least - encourage creativity!


Digital is a great way to stimulate the imagination while hands-on is perfect for bringing students to the here-and-now. Not many schools have the budget for an endless supply of hands-on learning objects, nor for the latest classroom technology, but every school can make the best of what they do have, be it a single desktop computer or a simple set of laboratory equipment. I think it’s time for the edtech leaders and the masters of hands-on to join forces. Let’s use both teaching styles for our students and give them the most well-rounded experience possible.

For ideas on combining tech and hands-on, check out our article on using tech to engage students.

Tags: edtech , 3D models
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