Weeks 4-5: Choosing Technology – Fall 2020

Introduction

Over the next two weeks, we will work together to design a tool for reviewing technology for use in the classroom. In a coordinated group activity, we will work together to develop a systematic approach to choosing technology.

In Week 4, we will develop a list of critical questions to ask before adopting a technology through a collective discussion. You will find the beginning of this discussion in the Discussion Forum.

In Week 5, you will each choose an app or other piece of educational technology. After using the tool we have developed to evaluate the app, you will report on your findings.

Once we have done this, we will have a collective review of several possible tools that might be useful for our students.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the section, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate educational technologies for their value in a specific teaching situation

Learning Activities

Making a Good Choice

Choosing technology to use in an educational setting is a complex task. There is a lot to consider:

  • Is the course intended to be delivered entirely online, or will it be a blended delivery?
  • How will the technology enhance the learning experience? How will it provide students an opportunity to achieve one of the learning outcomes for the course?
  • Does the technology fit with your own philosophy of teaching?

In addition to these broad questions, there are many questions that are specific to the technology you are considering:

  • What is the cost?
  • How complicated is it to use? Is there technical support available for you as the teacher or for your students?
  • How long will it take you to learn the technology and set it up for students, if that is required?
  • Does the technology require the entry of student’s personal data for use? If so, is the requirement of providing this information in line with your institution’s privacy policy?
  • Although this is a more subjective question, how much value will the technology provide? Consider that if the technology is time-consuming to set up, challenging to use, and useful only to explain a point that is easy to understand and could be explained in other ways, it is of low value.

Using a systematic approach

There is an overwhelming amount of new technology available for educational purposes. See for yourself. Check Apple’s App Store for IOS or Amazon’s Appstore for Android, and remember, these are just the applications available, not websites and other software.

No instructor in any subject has time to investigate every option that is available, and with so many choices, it can be difficult to make a good decision. It is helpful to use a systematic approach to considering what technology to try and ultimately to adopt.

There are some specific considerations that may apply in your teaching location, too, that require particular attention. For example, if you teach in a school district, there may be limitations on what software can be used based on freedom of information and/or protection of privacy requirements.

Different technological solutions also serve different purposes when used in education. Some are intentional, and some are not.

There are many things to consider:

Finding technology

With so many technologies available, finding them is likely less of a challenge than choosing. Looking in the app store for your device is one approach. Looking for educator-written reviews is another. Here are some examples:

  • Jennifer Gonzalez, on her blog The Cult of Pedagogy, provides reviews of technology she finds particularly useful; consider “6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018” (2018).
  • Teachers With Apps is a distinctly pro-technology site with many reviews of applications for all levels of students from preschool to high school. The site includes reviews of software designed for students with various special needs.

Reading

Read Chapters 6–8 from Teaching in a Digital Age (Bates).

In Chapter 6, Bates provides some historical background on the development of educational technology and reviews differences between the ideas of “media” and “technology.” His discussion of the differences between broadcast and communicative media in Section 6.4 is likely the most useful for our purposes. It is fine to skim the rest of the chapter.

In Chapter 7, Bates reflects on the pedagogical differences between media types, including text, audio, video, and social media. In Section 7.7, Bates provides a diagram that arrays media along a continuum from objectivist to connectivist. This can be helpful for you when considering whether particular apps are in alignment with your teaching philosophy.

In Chapter 8, Bates provides a model for reviewing media or technology for use in the classroom. His model, the SECTIONS model, includes consideration of:

  • Students
  • Ease of use
  • Costs
  • Teaching functions
  • Interaction
  • Organizational issues
  • Networking
  • Security and privacy

Bates provides some interesting questions you can use to reflect on technology and media choices.

Assessment

Discussion: Developing a media/technology review checklist

We will work together to develop a checklist for reviewing examples of media or technology for education. As part of the checklist, we should include these basic components:

  • What subject area does this tool support?
  • At what level could this tool be used? (e.g., preschool, elementary school, for adults, or designated a grade level if that seems important)
  • What is the stated purpose of the tool?

Based on your reading and reflection this week, what other questions do you think should be asked? Add your questions to the discussion thread, and explain why you think each one is important. Your instructor will compile a checklist created from the class input, and each student will have a chance to put this newly drafted list to use. Remember to tag your posts with your name so the Open Learning Faculty Member can assess your contribution. Note that this discussion activity should conclude at the end of Week 4 to give everyone time to complete the second part of this section in Week 5.

Go to the class discussion forum to make your post.

Blog Post #4: Application of the checklist

Using the checklist that you developed during the discussion in week 4, review one example of media, that is, an app or another technology-based resource that you think would be appropriate for use in your teaching location. Share the results and post your example of educational technology with your analysis on your blog during week 5.

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