10 timeless tips for teaching with technology

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, August 18, 2014

10 timeless tips for teaching with technology

10 timeless tips for teaching with tech
10 timeless tips for teaching with tech

Apps, programs and devices change over time. But some ideas for teaching with technology last through the changes. (Sketch by Matt Miller / Click image for larger version)

For me, it was the timeless classic Oregon Trail.

When I started teaching 10 years ago, it was webquests.

Today, it’s iPads, social media and creation tools on the Web.

There are three certains in life: death, taxes and changing technology. What students are using today will be way out of style when most of them hit the workforce (or even college).

We can’t keep teaching students programs. They have to learn how to adapt to new technologies. Click here to tweet this!

As the hardware and the programs and the apps change, certain fundamentals of teaching with tech stay the same. If we center our teaching – and our students’ learning – on these ideas, we will be able to weather the storm of constant digital changes.

Here are 10 timeless ideas for teaching with technology. This is certainly not an all-encompassing list, and I would certainly appreciate it if you would add your own timeless tech tips to this list in a comment at the end of the post.

1. Go where the students are

They all have their favorite tools, from the notepad on their iPhones to texting themselves to saving pictures of everything to Instagram. Students feel comfortable with those tools. They should – they’ve spent significant parts of their lives honing their skills on them! If you can move in next door to students with what they’re most comfortable using, you may gain access to them in ways you can’t otherwise.

2. Utilize self-directed learning

No longer is the teacher the main portal to information. There’s YouTube, Wikipedia and a host of blogs and other sites to guide curious minds. Put those resources to work! There’s power in giving students opportunities to pursue what interests them – within the scope of your class OR within the limits of their own imagination.

3. Emphasize task over tool

This is the drum that so many have beaten about technology in education – but for good reason. It’s not about the technology; it’s about the learning. Technology isn’t a learning outcome. Looking back over time, be it Math Blaster or Twitter in the classroom, good teachers have used the technology to accomplish their teaching goals.

4. Give students control

They know what they want to learn. They know what interests them. Why not turn students loose to learn on their own? Teachers have held tightly to control for years, but with information so freely and cheaply available, it’s easy to become irrelevant if we don’t.

5. Promote creating over consuming

What’s easy? Googling the answer to a question. What’s hard? Creating a resource for people who might have that same question. If the Web is going to harness the potential we want it to in the future, we must create a culture of creation instead of consumption. If no one ever created, this digital age we’re in wouldn’t exist.

6. Produce for a large audience

To reach a wide audience in the past, you needed a newspaper, a book publisher, a radio station or an airplane for dropping leaflets. These days, you need a blog or a social media account to reach the world. When students do an assignment their peers will see, they often try harder. Imagine the effort if a global audience could see it!

7. Use visuals to engage

Video and images are so easy to access online, and if you get the right ones for the message you want to convey, they’re infinitely more powerful than what you could say in words. Our brains are geared toward pictures. Feed your students’ brains!

8. Personalize everything

As a yearbook adviser for a few years, there was one rule that the publishing companies ensured that we (and our staffs) knew. Who is the first person everyone looks for in a new yearbook? Themselves. We want to see ourselves in everything we engage in. Make instant connections with students by making sure they can see themselves in what they’re learning and creating.

9. Make it matter

Doing a significant project about an interesting topic can connect with students. Doing it to help improve or solve an important problem makes it meaningful. The constant concern of parents, students and teachers is real-life application. If what you do or create for a class can improve the lives of others in your community or around the world, it’s not just academic anymore.

10. Don’t assume students already know

They’re digital natives. They were born in this technology-laden culture. They understand terms and devices and processes that many of us don’t. But that doesn’t mean that they have an innate ability to pick up every new digital tool or app instantly. And it doesn’t mean that they’re all like that. Like us, they need time to develop a comfort level with new technology before wielding it.

What’s your best timeless technology tip? Or which one in the list above resonates most with you? Tell us in a comment below!

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  • I totally agree with Kasey…. I love the the sketch! Technology and educational advancements have happened so fast in the last year or two. It is nice to see that there are finally ways that can be written/developed that can be consistent guidelines for students to use. Tips I would add would be do not under estimate a students ability to use technology simply because of their age or ability level and do not be afraid, afraid to try new tools and afraid to stretch technologies/tools and see if it can do more then it was created for.

    • Matt Miller says:

      Thanks, Carrie … those are great suggestions! And I agree … I’m always amazed at the impressive stuff that young ones do with tech in the classroom AND the complex stuff older ones can do (i.e. coding).

  • Kasey Bell says:

    Great post! Love the sketch!


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