This might not be the most appropriate question. There are plenty of examples of how technology does belong in the classroom. Countless anecdotes can be found on the web or from your colleagues of how technology has enhanced the classroom experience, but does that mean it will work for you? The more appropriate question may be, “Does technology belong in your classroom?”. The inclusion of technology can be intimidating for some, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not scary; it can actually be fun and beneficial. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before introducing a new (or old) technology into your teaching repertoire.
1. What is the purpose for the inclusion of the technology?
The use of technology can be used at any given point within class. It can serve as an ice-breaker for the day or a way to assess the understanding of a concept. You can take attendance with many technologies or stimulate conversation with others. What do you hope to achieve with the use of your technology inclusion? Just because a technology is available to you does not mean that it is better. Sometimes “old school” is better than the new stuff. Deciding if the “out with the old, in the with new” notion will make most impact is important, but only you can determine that for your classroom.
2. How will this technology enhance the learning outcomes for the course?
The inclusion of technology in the classroom should support content and propel students deeper into the learning process in order to meet the objectives laid out for the course. If the technology included is not going to support the learning objectives of the course, it is not needed.
3. Are you comfortable with the use of the technology?
Students in the classroom today are digital natives. They have grown up with some sort of electronic device in hand. They know technology- they may not always use the technology to the fullest capabilities or in the appropriate intended manner, but that’s another story or post. Adjusting to new devices is second nature to today’s students. As an instructor using technology in the classroom, we have to be comfortable with the use of the technology. This involves getting your feet wet, per se. Practice makes perfect, right? When considering the use of a new technology, practice on your colleagues or friends. Go through a lesson by yourself and see what hiccups might arise. Even though something may (or may not) go array in the classroom, practicing will help you to be better prepared as to how to trouble shoot the problem. You can never be too prepared. Does this mean that you need to know everything about the technology you’re using in the classroom? No, there are multiple resources for both instructors and students on campus. Knowing the resources available to help with the problems that may arise is a form of knowing your technology. When your students have a question about the content, they ask you for help (or google, who doesn’t google?). If you have a question, knowing who to ask is important. Check out your resources… LEC, Think Center, iTech, google…
4. Will the use of the technology serve as a supplement or a distraction?
Often times students can get side-tracked in class. Often may be an understatement. We don’t need to give them a reason to drift. Is the technology you’re using going to help the students in their understanding of the concept being covered? Will it help them gain a deeper level of understanding or help to explain a concept they might have missed previously? Switching the format of class can help keep students be engaged in the lesson. Alternating between lecture, discussion, and activities gives motion and movement to the learning experience and keeps students awake- which happens to be the best state for learning.
These are just the beginning thoughts to ask yourself when including a different form of technology into the classroom. Technology should not be included just to have something flashy happening in the classroom. Earlier I stated that our digital natives do not always use their technologies correctly or to the fullest capabilities, this does not have to be true for their usage in the classroom. See what technologies are out there and explore how you can include them in your classroom. It’s okay to adopt a technology into your classroom even when no one else is doing it. It’s okay to make mistakes. If something doesn’t work the first time, figure out why it didn’t work and change it. Using technology in the classroom is a learning process- not just for the students, but for you, the educator, as well. It’s a classroom; I think the point is for learning to take place, regardless of who serves as the learner.
Remember technology does not teach. Teachers teach. Technology is a supplement to be used to help you, the teacher, in the delivery of the content to the learners.