Digital Education Part 2: Effectiveness

In the last digital education post we discussed using social media in the high school classroom as well as a tool for connecting people to the school. It’s often been a fearful thing for secondary schools to embrace social media because of the dangers and negative connotations that are often associated with it. For some reason, many tech tools are approached the opposite way in school, and sometime with dangerous consequences. Teachers can be so enthusiastic to use the newest technology that they rush into implementing it into a lesson without giving thought to its usefulness or effectiveness. Here are a couple of things to think about when vetting new technology for your classroom:

  1. Does the technology enhance the learning experience? Examples of enhancing the experience would be providing information about the topic that otherwise wouldn’t have been available, providing access to more and varied points of view, giving the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas, or allowing the student to present their ideas or knowledge on the subject in a different way. Of course this is not an exhaustive list of ways that technology can enhance the learning experience but it is an important questions to ask to avoid it cause distraction or perhaps taking more time to teach the tool than it’s worth.
  2. Is this use of technology giving the students useful tools for later in life? When we’re searching for the newest, greatest app that will catch every students’ attention we can miss fact that “older” technologies are still very relevant in the business/career/college world that we are preparing students to enter. For example, using a program that creates and interactive bell curve with different colored shaded areas and animation can be engaging and fun. But perhaps teaching students how to create an engaging presentation of their bell curve by using excel might be more applicable to their life. Nothing against either method…just something to consider.
  3. This is my favorite and one that I see most often in practice. Is this just a really expensive worksheet with better graphics? If students are answering the same questions that are in their math textbooks but are typing the answer on the screen of an ipad for the reward of a digital ribbon then the technology is not having an impact on their learning. Yes, it may be more engaging at first. It may hold their attention for a few moments longer. However, it is not better than an engaged teacher with tangible lessons that gives their own form of a digital ribbon with words of encouragement, praise, and guidance while asking deeper questions along the way.

As we search for ways to help us engage the digital youth in and education system that they do not see as relevant let us not forget that technology is a tool. It must be used in the hands of skilled craftsman in order to make any lasting impact on students. The finest, most well-made paint brush does little unless in the hands of an artist. Technology is not here to replace great teachers. It is here for great teacher to use in great ways.

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