Are you using Internet tools to engage students in the classroom and improve learning outcomes, or are you just using technology to decrease the time you spend lecturing and interacting with your students?
There are many great internet based tools available to bring new elements of collaboration, interaction, and even a little fun to the instructional process and thereby better engage and motivate your students and enhance learning outcomes. Of course, it is also entirely possible to use technology as a crutch or a “baby sitter”, but this is a rather unfortunate use of these tools and can give education technology a bad name.
Many of you may have seen this excellent, widely discussed article, “Teaching Naked” by teacher Jose’ A. Bowen this summer. Mr. Bowen suggests stripping the classroom of technology and focusing class time on discussion and interactive activities. I certainly agree that scrolling through PowerPoint slide decks as a replacement for lecturing is not optimal instructional technique. In his article, Mr. Bowen also discusses how to leverage technology outside of the classroom (online tests, assigning homework via email, etc.) to free up more time for interaction in the classroom. I think this article presents a great set of thoughts on appropriate use of education technology and I thoroughly appreciate many of these ideas. However, I would not suggest going so far as to completely remove the use of technology from the classroom.
I am certainly not alone in my belief that the use of Internet based technologies can enhance learning outcomes and motivate students to participate in the instructional process. Over the last 2 weeks I conducted a brief poll here that asked, “What new Internet technologies will you be introducing in the classroom this year?” In this survey, I posed the question, “How do you envision these technologies enhancing student engagement and improving learning outcomes?” Following is a sampling of some of the responses:
“When students are actually creating rather than listening and taking notes, they will be engaged in the lessons and learn (remember) more which should have a positive impact on learning outcomes.”
“Spark interest, increase student connectedness, provide for a variety of learning styles.”
“Encouraging new forms and outlets for their creativity, collaborating skills, tapping into their world to make learning seem more relevant.”
“The increased motivation for our students to be able to use tools that they are more comfortable with will be huge!”
Educators that fail to learn about and leverage Internet technologies are failing to take advantage of a wide range of (often free or very low cost) tools that appeal to students and can have a wonderful impact on the instructional process. I am not advocating using technology merely for the sake of the technology, but rather to have a basic understanding of tools such as those advocated in “10 internet technologies that educators should be informed about“, and see if some of them might play a constructive role in some of your classes. This popular “5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies” post is yet another effort to edify some of the key reasons why instructors should consider the productive application of education technology.
The Internet abounds with articles about the use of educational technologies in and out of the classroom. Some of these articles offer insight into how these tools can enhance learning outcomes, and many of them illustrate how they encourage student engagement and motivation. Various past posts here on EmergingEdTech offer examples of this, such as:
In closing, I would simply like to suggest that if you have never used any of these tools, you should make it a point to experiment with one of them this year. Even if you aren't delighted with the results in the end, you will certainly have learned something, and you should be pleased with yourself for getting out of your comfort zone and stretching a bit. On the other hand, if your intention is simply to find something to make your job easier, to “lean on it” rather than “leverage it”, then I would suggest that you look beyond that and consider one of the more interactive types of technologies, like storytelling and timeline tools, collaboration and brainstorming tools, or online interactive whiteboards. Lastly, if you are already a contented user of some of these technologies in the classroom, maybe you could share your experiences with a fellow instructor, or pass this article on, and see if together we can't make a new Education Technology convert.
Thanks, and best of luck in all your endeavors in this new school year!
[Ed. Note: To watch and listen to educators far more eloquent than I make the case for better leveraging of Ed Tech in the classroom, check out some of these great videos: 8 Engaging Videos Advocating Better Integration of Technology in Education.]