There are many reasons why instructors use new technology in their teaching

  • It’s shiny and new, it’s fancy! Of course I want to use it!
  • If I don’t do it, I’ll be a dinosaur.
  • My students are using technology that is alien to me – I better pick up on it so I can speak their language.

Why do you choose any of the teaching methods that you use? Why do you sometimes pick up chalk or a marker instead of showing a downloaded image? Why do you demonstrate how to do something rather than give a handout? I’m sure you have your reasons, and your teaching methods that involve technology need good reasons too!

I received a wide spectrum of student feedback on the in-class mind-mapping activity using LucidChart. Several students enjoyed the student-directed, collaborative nature of the unassessed activity. However, one student pointed out that for her, the technology was not necessary for the colloborative learning to take place.

“… the time it takes to learn [LucidChart] is much better spent just learning and interacting by talking aloud to each other and writing things down with a huge piece of paper and lots of markers.” – Anonymous Student

Huh. It’s actually a great point.  I expect that the results of using LucidChart for mind-mapping for one hour did allow each student to contribute, and the results certainly look impressive for one hour x 23 students’ work.  But do the gains made by using this software significantly greater than a simple activity with markers and paper?  Do the positives outweigh the work and time required to set up LucidChart, troubleshoot internet connections, and teach it to my students?

As the bloggers at TeachThought note, technology for technology’s sake is dangerous.  When you are thinking about incorporating new (or new-to-you) technology into the classroom, reflect upon your reasons.  Will this technology:

  • allow you to communicate more effectively with students?
  • increase engagement between you and your students?
  • help students achieve learning objectives you have set out for them?
  • help prepare students for assessment?
  • allow students to share their work with each other/ learn from each other/ share ideas/ debate ideas/ etc.?
  • help you track participation?
  • allow students more creativity than your traditional methods?
  • save you time/ save you paper/ save hassle?

If you take the time to reflect on your reasons for using certain technologies, you can make informed choices as to which ones to incorporate into your classroom.  After all, you can’t (and shouldn’t) choose them all.  You also shouldn’t waste your time learning and then teaching your class to use a new technology if you haven’t assessed its value.  Even the most technologically-inclined students and instructors are likely to experience techno-fatigue if they have to keep up with a class blog, a class wikiversity project, in-class polling, participation tweets, online discussion boards, and online mind mapping. Double the fatigue if the point of using said technologies is not made clear.  Select one or two resources that suit your teaching style, your subject matter, your class size.  Use those technologies often (so students get used to it) and use them well. Ensure that your use of technology helps students meet the learning objectives you set for your course.

After your lesson, assessment, or course, reflect on the technology again to ensure that both you and your students benefit from the addition of technology.