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Determining The Usefulness Of Classroom Technologies - Part 1

[caption id="attachment_3483" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="When trying to pick a useful classroom technology, instructors must have a strong idea of what they want to use the technology for before entering the purchase process. Photo by Tripp."] [/caption] Technology selected for use in the classroom should help students to achieve the intended course outcomes. An appropriate technology should not require student to spend significant time learning to use it –unless learning to use that technology is one of the stated course goals! Avoid the three perils of technology selection:
  1. Choosing the technology before developing the course outcomes.
  2. Using a technology because it is available or you are obliged to use it.
  3. Assuming the high-tech technology option will be more effective.
So how can a classroom instructor sort through the endless array of technology and find something worthwhile for their classroom? In my job as an instructional designer I use an iterative process based on three criteria to evaluate potential classroom technologies. This article will review the “Purpose” section, and next week the “Usability” and “Access” criteria will be investigated. Purpose Never let the tail wag the dog! The key to effective technology selection is to be clear about the purpose of the technology. Then use a systematic approach to evaluate each technology with respect to the desired outcomes, the needs of the learners, the requirements of the content, resources available, and constraints you must operate within such as budget or stakeholder expectations - before selecting the technology. When you know exactly what you want your students to achieve it becomes easier to evaluate all the technology options available to you - including print.  When I develop courses I frequently refer back to the learning outcomes we want students to achieve. I ask myself whether the particular technology under consideration is the best for achieving the desired outcome. Example: You want to use iPads because they offer a personal learning environment, tools for collaboration, communication, and research in a single easy to transport technology. Your school board says iPads are too expensive. Don’t give up! Yes, iPads can reinforce learning outcomes with an easy to use technology that motivates students to learn.  However, they are not they only tool available –in fact they didn’t even exist three years ago. If you view technology as a tool to achieve a specific outcome you will discover that you have many options available to achieve the same results – although it may be through a mix of technology tools. I use the 5-step iterative process below to guide technology selection. Selecting the most appropriate technology:
  1. Review your learning outcomes and identify the specific learning needs and purpose of the technology.
  2. Evaluate the alternative technologies available to help students learn, practice, and retain new learning.
  3. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each potential technology (accessibility, ease of use, availability, cost etc.).
  4. Select the best technology (or an effective mix) that draws on the strengths of each technology to help students accomplish the stated course outcomes.
Re-evaluate and confirm your final technology choice(s).

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