Trainers, bloggers and education pundits tend to use lots of catch phrases and buzz words to talk about the power of technology in education.
You’ll hear things like this:
Technology is a game changer.
Technology can do so much for education.
The Internet is full of resources we can use.
Technology is the future of education.
The same people who throw out all of those generalities and prognostications are often the ones that don’t provide concrete examples. It’s easy to talk about the possibilities in theory, drop the microphone and walk away.
That leaves us as educators with our heads spinning, feeling even more overwhelmed than before, thinking, “Where do I even start? How do I take advantage of that?”
Let’s step out of generalities and into practice.
How can technology help us kick teaching and learning up a notch?
Here are five ways I think technology can truly improve learning — with examples to support them:
1. Technology can shorten the feedback loop. Think about your typical, traditional homework assignment. It goes kind of like this:
Where does that homework end up? Often, in the trash, on the floor in the hallway, or worse — sticking out of the bottom of a student’s locker!
In a world where we have instant purchases, instant messaging and instant gratification, we have the potential to create a much more meaningful, responsive feedback loop than that. If we can catch students at the point where they’re still cognitively wrestling with a new concept and provide them with the feedback they need, I’ve found that they’re more likely to use it and internalize it.
Here are some ways we can shorten the feedback loop:
2. Technology can make great connections. We have the ability to communicate face-to-face with practically anyone around the world with an Internet connection via video call (Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime, etc.). Many of us have done a Skype or FaceTime call in our own lives, but so few educators have done video calls in the classroom with students.
Here are some ways we can make great connections:
3. Technology can help kids make a difference. Kids are often trying to make meaning with what they’re learning, trying to connect it to their lives. If they feel like their learning is meaningful and makes a difference, they’re going to be more invested. We’re in a position to take what kids learn in our classrooms and use it to benefit others, which makes learning much more worthwhile.
Here are some ways we can help kids make a difference:
4. Technology can take students there. Field trips — especially the big ones that require charter buses or airplanes — can be expensive, time consuming and very detail-heavy. Even the aforementioned virtual field via Skype take some setting up and scheduling. But there are great ways that we give students the experience of being at a place instantly, on demand.
Here are some ways we can take students there:
5. Technology can help us find ideas. The single most important move I’ve ever made to improve my practice as an educator was to start using Twitter professionally.
I think Twitter’s the best free professional development that exists:
Interested in checking it out? Check out my Twitter for teachers guide at DitchThatTextbook.com/twitter.[reminder]What are other practical ways that technology can kick teaching and learning up a notch? Do you have some examples or experiences from your own life?[/reminder]
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