The demands on teachers are continuing to increase – and while technology can certainly help lessen the load, knowing where to start can also be daunting. There is no shortage of tools, including videos, games, simulations, productivity and collaboration tools, and digital texts. However before educators adopt new technologies, they should focus on the tools that will help students develop deeper understanding and master new skills.
Technology, when used effectively, is a tool that can enhance learning. Among technology’s many benefits in education is the ability to provide insights about individual students and learning outcomes. Eric Horowitz, education researcher and EdSurge columnist, speaks to this exciting possibility:
“One of the goals of academic assessment is to identify which students need help; the sooner they can be identified, the better. The promise of technology has been that its ability to collect data could make this process timelier, more accurate, and less burdensome.”
Most can see the potential benefits of technology – but bringing them to life is a different story. Teachers enter the classroom with a broad range of educational and experiential backgrounds relative to technology, as well as varying degrees of comfort level. This disparity can result in ineffective use and missed opportunities, and it’s important to note that simply having tech tools doesn’t guarantee effective use. Like traditional textbooks, technology is simply a means to an end. Using either without the right direction or purpose likely means that learning outcomes will not be met.
Here are some action items for educators to consider:
Consider how technology tools can support learning outcomes. For technology to act as an enhanced learning tool, this consideration is key. Don’t replace traditional tools just for the sake of using technology. Instead, try to hone in on what technology will work where; have a purpose behind every tool’s placement.
Combine traditional learning methods with technology. Technology is a valuable tool, but that doesn’t mean that traditional methods should be tossed to the wayside. Think of technology as a way to enhance the learning methods that are already in place. Augment hard copy communications with electronic communications to meet broader needs. Look for opportunities to incorporate technology into lesson plans. View technology as a way to connect with students on a different level, since for today’s students, technology is an integral part of day-to-day life.
Experiment more to uncover success. Technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Both teachers and students should embrace a “learn by doing” approach. Do not be afraid to fail – instead, look at failure as an opportunity to learn – sometimes the greatest insights come from experimentation. Personalize your approach to meet different student, lesson, and end-goal needs.
Remember learning is the goal, not technology use. Terry Heick, Director of TeachThought, reminds teachers “using technology as an end, rather than a means, is a significant misstep.” Craig Kemp, an experienced educator, furthers Heick’s point in an article for The Edvocate, saying:
“Education is all about purpose. Integrating technologies into our learning environments needs to be relevant and purposeful; it needs to make learning easier and more engaging for our students. Ask yourself…why am I using this technology and how will it improve learning in my classroom? Think pedagogy (and curriculum) before teaching.”
Don’t use technology as entertainment or to fill space, use it with intention.
Keep the conversation open. Don’t assume that students know all there is to know about technology – make sure that they too understand how it should be used, why it is being used, and have end goals in mind. Also, don’t read silence as success. Encourage an open conversation about how technology is being used in the classroom. With a feedback loop, you will likely be able to better grasp what is (and isn’t) working.
At the end of day, shiny new tech tools do not drive better outcomes. What does? The same principles of effective teaching that have always led to great outcomes. Technology is an enhanced tool that allows for new and creative options to better engage students in the learning process.
“3 Ways Educational Technology Tools Predict Student Success” EdSurge. July 13 2015.
“Predicting course outcomes with digital textbook usage data” Science Direct. October 2015.
“Mining LMS data to develop an ‘early warning system’ for educatiors: A proof of concept” Science Direct. February 2010.
“Programming Pluralism: Using Learning Analytics to Detect Patterns in the Learning of Computer Programming” The Journal of Learning Sciences. October 2014.
“9 Mistakes Teachers Make Using Technology in the Classroom” TeachHUB. 2013.
“15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology” TeachThought. August 29 2015.
“The 4 Biggest Mistakes That Teachers Make When Integrating Technology” The Edvocate. September 22 2015.