It Blinks, Flashes, and Moves…Let’s Use It!
With gasps of relief from your savvy but often impatient teen customers, you’ve decided to move into the new millennium by creating a class wiki/blog/website/group for your modern classroom. This online collection will act as a virtual bookshelf for all of that information—grading notes, extra-credit announcements, links to excellent articles—you would normally print off and send home in the form of handouts, and it’ll keep your hard work organized and handy from virtually anywhere.
Statistics show that online tools, when used efficiently and effectively, engage a higher ratio of students in the classroom because they cast a wider net, engaging different learners in multiple ways that a simple lecture or discussion may not. Does this mean you ditch 4th period class time and instead let your class log in and tune out? Of course not. While researchers are still unable to completely quantify the many benefits of being in a safe and engaging physical classroom space, studies do show that virtual classroom tools—from blended learning scenarios in which online components are added to a physical class, to asking students to track assignments in a “wiki"—offer additional opportunities for learning and the retention of material.
New technologies can be daunting, especially when most of our students seem more techno-savvy than many adults we know. Following best practices for educational technology will help to allay some of this fear as well as provide a better experience for your learners. Consider that you already employ many “best practices" in your teaching; educational technology follows similar principles. The first and foremost recommendation for classroom technology use is astonishingly simple but significant: always use technology with a purpose and goal.
Much in the same way you wouldn’t assign homework just to give students something to do, always employ technology in the classroom with a purpose and goal in mind. For example, will an animated computer version of mitosis provide a better idea of the concept than a series of drawings? Is it preferable to show a tutorial on proper research methods rather than demonstrate them yourself? Only you can answer questions like these based on your class’s makeup and their learning needs. Resist the dazzle of technology just because it makes your class plan look like yesterday’s cafeteria meatloaf. Do the research, plan carefully, and choose judiciously; the technology will help your content shine and neither you nor your students will be disappointed.