I am a firm believer that educational technology should make student learning fun, interactive, exciting, and meaningful. We all know the educator that takes their 10-year-old word document and posts it on Google Classroom and says they are using educational technology. While true, it really is a bit of an underuse of what educational technology really can do for student learning. It’s like buying a Ferarri to go to grocery store once-a-week. Yes, it can do that too, but its really not utilizing the tool you have to its maximum level.
Students today learn differently than you or I did back in the day. When they don’t know the answer to a question, out come the phone or Chromebook and the question is Googled, only to immediately find the right answer with a few swipes of a finger. So, why does a student need to memorize certain facts and data? All they’d have to do is look it up anyways? Isn’t this a waste of time? Couldn’t the time you have with students be used in a more meaningful way? Perhaps to gain a deeper understanding of a certain subject?
Educational technology allows us to do this with ease today. Just 10 years ago, this was A LOT harder. Mobile technology was in its infancy. Maybe…just maybe you knew A person with an internet-enabled phone that could go on a webpage. Laptops were expensive and required a great deal of work and support just to maintain them. Now, these things are not only much simpler and nimble, but they are practically commonplace with today’s student.
So, how do we get beyond taking what we’ve done in our classes year after year and merely converting it to digital format and move to using these tools to unlock a deeper understanding of concepts for students?
Work on digital citizenship first
We all know that in order for learning to take place in our classrooms, we need to have learning procedures and classroom procedures in place FIRST before we actually start learning. The same applies for the use of technology in your classroom. Teach students how to use social media. Common Sense Media, BrainPop, and Google are just a few of the great resources that are out there for students to interactively learn about digital citizenship. What and when to post online, what to share about yourself online, knowing what’s already out there about yourself are all critical things students must know. And, I firmly do believe that this is a must before any online learning takes place.
If learning is fun, students will learn better. Plain and simple. Make learning a game by using tools such as Kahoot or Quizlet to review for a test or quiz. Use virtual reality to look at different places you’ve never been to. Make learning FUN! Use GradeCraft or Rezzly to take your lessons and turn them into games.
Use Technology to Facilitate, not Teach
The worse thing you could do is use technology as the teacher, not a supplement to teaching. If you lean on technology to do everything for you, you are really doing your students a disservice. Sure, some may like to just work on Chromebooks or iPads all class, but the whole fun and purpose of teaching go out the window. Each class and grade has students that have all sorts of varying abilities, personalities, etc. Technology should be there to aide in this, not take your place. Think of it as if you have a teacher’s assistant. You are there to conduct the lesson or guide them through the lesson, and technology is like the second or third (fourth, fifth….) set of hands you have to tackle learning hurdles in the classroom.
We are all guilty of having students use an app for a period or a lesson once in a while. I’m guilty of it too. But, this should not be the norm. If we can subscribe to the mentality that ed tech is our assistant, not our instructor, we can use ed tech to its highest capacity. We have unique personalities and learning styles in our classroom. Ed tech, using it as our assistants, can differentiate instruction and customize it to various learning styles or degrees of ability.