Principles for using technology effectively in the classroom

While I am a huge fan of using technology in classroom, one of the trends I see happening is a thoughtless embrace of technology, e.g. “If I use technology in the classroom, I MUST be a good teacher!” and “If it’s technology, it MUST be good for the students.”

In the everyone-needs-to-read book The Shallows:  What the internet is doing to our brains, Nicholas Carr makes a strong case that with the explosion of technology in the past decade, it is controlling us (and reformatting our brains) without our knowledge or consent.

As teachers, it is essential that we use technology purposefully, not as a time-filler or wow-factor.

On top of that, we need to consider the impact it will have on our students.  Here are a few rules of thumb that I follow:

  1. Content > Venue. What you teach must always be more important than the venue with which you present it.  Heck, showing students YouTube videos all days is a hoot, but if it doesn’t support the content, it’s worthless.
  2. Context > Tool. I love social networking for the ability it gives me to access so much around the world.  However, just because I like twitter, doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate tool for a first grader – kids need to first develop face-to-face relational before they encounter the world of social networking.  In the same vein, language learners need face-to-face practice with language before we set them loose on language learning sites and programs.  Clearly, this doesn’t mean technology is bad for kids (or language learners), just that teachers need to be careful to match the appropriate tool to the needed skill.
  3. Familiarity > Variety. When it comes to having students use technology for themselves, I find that just because they can text in their pocket doesn’t mean they know how to effectively use presentation software or great sites like Voicethread, Evernote or Twitter.

All things considered, technology is definitely still a great addition to the classroom.  My new favorite tech site for language teachers? TeacherTrainingVideos by Russell Stannard.

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