Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Technology integration in the college classroom

Adapted from the following, oriented originally to university sector but I think applicable to all levels.

Hopper, K. and R. Hendricks. Technology integration in the college classroom: A baker's dozen frugal but promising strategies. Educational Technology Sept-Oct 2008: 10-17.

1. Be student-centred.
Focus on teaching & learning not tech.

2. Capitalise on strengths of technology-mediated learning, especially efficiency and scalability.
Re-use, re-purpose digital assets such as recordings of lectures)

3. Be cost-effective.
UK educators will no doubt be aware of the millions wasted on high tech that doesn't get used. Tech should be used as part of a larger strategy (see 1 above). Use tech at hand or easily obtained; for example, some of our activities utilise mobile phones to surpass school network restrictions - not out of subversion but practicality of not having to wait for the IT dept., passwords, content controls etc. Another example given in the article is that many features of popular software like MS Word goes unused. Also there are lots of free tools online now - several linked from this web site.

4. Be judicious.
Tech is not the end all. Example from article is coming to class with latest articles on a topic downloaded from a web site, instead of giving a multimedia presentation. Show how you found them, incorporate into teaching, expect same level of scholarship from students.

5. Use online tech to support teaching.
Some of the same suggestions as on this site: YouTube, remote scientist/experts, content-related sites.

6. Help students find their own answers.
Library and scholarly databases, basic web skills, ability to assess credible sources.

7. Manage expectations.
Students may expect instant results with technology. In contrast, many activities include collecting data but then discussing, editing, shaping into a coherent (often narrative) form. See for example our activities on using Comic Life.

8. Use tech to increase the value of feedback.
Online or quizzes, discussion forums mean instant feedback to students; email and asynchronous message boards mean you and they can accept feedback when convenient. The authors suggest that frequent feedback promotes multiple drafts: work isn't 'finished' on the first draft.

9. Encourage best practice.
Protecting privacy, copyright and intellectual property, ethical conduct. Separate official school emails, for example, from those for personal use. Social networks like Facebook can have value in learning, but only when used with awareness, oversight and structure.

10. Focus on long term goals.
Don't abandon classroom practises that work; select technologies that work with them. Think about students' long-term careers, and how these tools will be useful for them. In a project in Kenya with farmers new to computers, we tried all sorts of new technologies but in the end they really wanted to learn office applications to improve their business practises.

11. Prepare for a mix of technology experience levels.
While students at all levels now grow up with digital technologies, some are more confident than others - and often teachers even less so. The authors suggest having more able students teach the less able; pointing out interface conventions; and using technologies to solve real problems, not in an abstract way. I would add that both hardware and software evolve frequently, so teach some basic computing concepts (e.g. http://csunplugged.org/)so that students can learn to teach themselves about new technologies as they come along.

12. Use the technology's power to archive and distribute.
Despite trends toward constructivism there are still bodies of knowledge to learn in most subject areas, and here technology is good for holding a lot of data and moving it around easily, in different forms: for example doing revisions on a mobile device. Use the tech for what it's best at, freeing the humans for the creative stuff!

13. Don't over-rely on Powerpoint
"We sometimes reflect sadly that our own children may bemoan their education as an endless stream of Powerpoint presentations," the authors write, "and they are well aware that this promotes a fragmented, narrow form of learning."

14. Attend to aesthetics and usability.
The seemingly obvious: communicate clearly and simply. Kids don't need childlike illustrations and as the authors observe, websites that try to be "fun" are forced and silly. Select tools that will not require learning themselves but can focus on subject learning.

15. Don't panic.
Don't rush into tech usage for fear of being left behind, and don't be seduced by the latest and greatest. That's where the millions in government money have gone. Technology is not necessarily going to engage or make learning faster, easier, more fun.

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