26 Feb

Decisions, Decisions: Making the Best Technology Choices For Your Classroom

I hold the belief that educators must create a culture of continuous instructional improvement for our students. It is a sentiment that has permeated the way I approach classroom instruction, and for the many others who agree with that belief, these improvements can and should be achieved through various solutions. However, it seems as though educators and education magazines already chose their “favored solution” to achieve these improvements: new classroom technologies — and rightfully so. Over the past 10 years, the educational technology world has expanded exponentially, and everyday educators are informed of new technologies they can use to improve instruction. For those who are receptive to these tools, the desire to use all of these technologies in every step of instruction can be overwhelming and can unfortunately lead educators to not choose the best tool, or lose site of the purpose or effectiveness of the lesson. So here lies our dilemma. How can we ensure that we are improving instruction, while experimenting with, and searching for the best technologies for our classrooms?

Writer and teacher, Paul Barnwell recently published an article in Education Week Teacher, in which he addresses his complicated relationship with these numerous technologies. In his article “The Time-Tested Dos and Don’ts of Using Classroom Technology,” Barnwell states that finding the right classroom technology is “a messy process.” His nine years of technology experimentation, and “eager” attitude to try it all, has resulted in a compact list of tips for classroom technology use. You can read the article here.

The thing I mostly took away from Barnwell’s article, aside from a lot of really great tips, is that finding the right educational technology tools is a difficult process that requires a lot of trial and error. We all want to create the most innovative and interesting environments for our students to learn, however we cannot allow our desire to use these tools make us lose site of our lesson objectives. Our technology choices cannot be haphazard, but instead be choices that achieve desired learning results in our students. To decide which technologies you should use, keep in mind the following:

  • The technology should act as an assistant. As Barnwell points out, we cannot “rely so heavily on the technology tools that speaking and listening skills go by the wayside.” Although he is referring to the students, this idea must be applied to teachers as well. The teacher’s direction and guidance are the greatest learning assets to our schools, and the technologies should be used to highlight those assets, not replace them.
  • The tools must support the Common Core Learning Standards. Essentially, the common core concept is that for every inch you move forward, you must dig a mile deep. These CCL standards encourage ideas to be fully flushed out through in-depth research and numerous resources. Effective classroom technologies allow teachers and students to go beyond traditional learning environments and explore and interact with various media, promoting the research necessary to fully achieve these high learning standards.
  • The technologies should benefit the students and the teacher. Tools like SMART Response, allow students to have an interactive learning experience, while giving the instructor data they can use to assess the student’s learning and lesson effectiveness.

And most importantly,

  • Technologies to support data-driven instructional decision making hold great promise for increasing the efficiency by enhancing the effectiveness of teaching and learning activities, accelerating student achievement, and improving administrative, programmatic, and organizational performance. They have the potential to engage students and capitalize on learning styles (Dieterle, Dede, & Schier, 2007). Educators need embedded blended professional learning opportunities to build their capacity to use data and access to technologies to support instructional decision-making.
  • The use of technology can be used to inform instruction, access online assessment systems with progress monitoring tools, and use emerging mobile technologies to personalize students’ learning needs. Instead of teaching to the “average” student, teachers need to be able to use data systems aligned to standards and emerging technologies to develop personalized learning for all students.
  • Interactive and adaptive assessment technologies and systems have the capacity to support the measurements of complex performances that cannot be assessed with conventional testing formats. Technological innovations, such as mobile technologies, social networking, and virtual learning environments, are desirable because they are highly engaging. They provide immediate performance feedback so that students always know how they are doing.

As educators, we must find a balance between what is currently trendy in education, and what we think will most effectively educate our students and better our instruction. We should not focus on what technology is used in the lesson, but focus more so on what benefits result from the technology. Post your opinions and comments on our comments page and let us know how you determine which technologies to use in your daily instruction. Do you agree with Barnwell’s tips? Which “Do’s and Don’t’s” do you suggest when choosing or using classroom technology?

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