So Much Technology, So Little Time

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I have so much to do! And there’s so little time! – Author: John Gunther

Daily Life of a Teacher

I recently read an article that stated that teachers make on average 1500 decisions a day. Quite extraordinary and having been there myself I can think of the split-second environment of the classroom. “Should I allow this student to continue talking, wait, what about the student that looks disengaged, I probably should alter the lesson, someone has a question” and the list goes on. Then there is the instructional question, more specifically how to deliver instruction. The content is always there, but what technology tool or tools should I use?

Checking In With New Educators

The teachers that are most impacted by these questions are those recently joining the education profession. They are swamped with policies, trying to survive the daily grind, the impending evaluations, etc. As I have written in a previous post these teachers have not received much guidance with technology integration in their respective teaching preparation programs. I recently presented for the California Teachers Association New Educators conference. Most of the educators had two to five years of experience and had some experience with technology. However, as we discussed in the session there is not much time given to actually assessing tech integration. Much of what is implemented is based on recommendations or some previous experience. This is what I would like to change.

Some Basic Questions

Being that there is a wealth of tech tools out there for teachers to utilize, it is too convenient to grab and go with whatever is available. I believe some thoughtful consideration must be given to any tech tool integration in the form of three questions:

  1. Does the tool increase student learning?

  2. What is the right application for the task?

  3. Does it have an SEL component?

First of all, I would like to make clear that these questions have been asked in many contexts beginning with does the tool increase student learning. Thomas Guskey posited this very question when examining professional development. When it comes to using any application in instruction, the bottom line is how does the tool increase learning and how do we know how it does so? For example, when I utilized Pear Deck, I could see student responses to the various prompts that were posted on the Google Slides. Although, I was not using hard test score data, as a formative assessment integrated into the instructional delivery Pear Deck provided a teacher feedback option. When a particular student did not answer the prompt satisfactorily, I would redirect them with feedback. Most of the time this was immediate. Once a student demonstrated that they understood with their response they proceeded with the lesson. Eduprotocols also offers a similar function with the use of slide decks and the strategies of Thin Slides, Number Mania, Iron Chef, Sketch and Tell, all of which provide the teacher an instant view of student responses. Obviously with other platforms and applications, one needs to make use of any hard data that is part of the tool. At a larger level the use of an LMS should provide the same. Can student learning improve through the use of analytics? If not it is time to look elsewhere for a platform that utilizes analytics that will demonstrate outcomes and student learning.

In addressing the right application for the task, one must consider what they want their students to achieve. It is possible to integrate two applications or more into one lesson. My approach begins with the Backwards Design approach by asking the question, “what will the students do to represent what they learned for the particular lesson?” In this case, I provide students with options to demonstrate their learning. I want to make sure that I can see learning progression for the instructional delivery component. Pear Deck, Nearpod, Seesaw, Google Suites, and Flipgrid are great tools that address this area.

The final question regarding technology integration relates to social-emotional learning. I break down this component into five sub-strands.

  1. Does the tool provide for student self-management?

  2. Does the tool allow for students to develop skills that can extend beyond the classroom?

  3. Is the tool engaging?

  4. Does the tool have a feedback option?

  5. Does the tool give students the opportunity to personalize their learning?

There may be times when not all five of the questions can be answered, which is all right. Educators are subjected to enough cookie-cutter approaches to learning, and having flexibility is key to any approach.

A Streamlined Approach

With just three questions a teacher can quickly assess the how what and why of any tool considered for implementation. Hopefully, as there is a push to adopt a pedagogical approach to teaching, technology integration will be done with purpose. These questions are not exclusive as there are other approaches that are frameworks based on years of research. However, with these questions, a teacher can make a quick assessment of the viability of any tool utilized for technology. Since technology is now a vital part of instruction, let’s make it work for both students and teachers alike.

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