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Technology In The Classroom: Goals And Student Needs Come First

Technology In The Classroom: Goals And Student Needs Come First
The decision about which technology to purchase is not a matter of what’s best or cheapest, but finding the technology that best meets your institution’s goals. Photo by Les Chatfield.

In this current climate, with eBooks, iPads, opensource, educational software, Twitter, Facebook, and myriad of other technology tools and resources available for educational arenas, it is a full-time job trying to determine what the most appropriate tools for classroom use are. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest technology resources, but what often happens is you have a whole lot of technology resources not being used appropriately or not appropriate for students to begin with.

Just because something is technology does NOT make it the best option for the classroom. Don’t lose sight of the fact that technology is JUST A TOOL – in the wrong hands or situation, it can do more harm than good.

How then do you evaluate the technology out there to determine if it is a good fit for your classroom or educational setting? I think the key word here is evaluate. I have been in situations where absolutely no evaluation goes into the purchase or use of new technology, either because money had to be spent quickly so purchases were made based on what ‘looked good’, or a great tool was purchased or adopted because of a need without going further than the description of the tool.  There was no thought behind training that might be needed or additional resources that might be needed or the time investment.

Great technology can be a bad choice if there is no infrastructure to support its use.

What does this evaluation process look like? I can only base this on my experiences, both good and bad, both direct and observational, as a teacher, administrator and now, working with educators throughout the country on tech integration. Here are my suggestions for evaluating technology PRIOR to purchasing or adopting its use in your educational setting, be that a classroom or a wider educational arena.

Steps for Evaluating Educational Technology

A)      Determine your goal.

  1. What are the perceived needs, be they those of students, teachers, etc.
  2. Where are you lacking in resources to meet those needs?
  3. What CHANGE do you want to have occur (i.e. increased student achievement, or better communication, etc.)

B)      Know your available resources

  1. Money i.      Do you have a budget? What are the constraints?ii.      Are you going to focus on free vs. for fee resourcesiii.      Do you have money to bring in consultants to do initial trainings?
  2. Personnel i.      Do you have the capacity to provide training, coaching, and modeling if a new tool requires this type of support?ii.      What’s the technology comfort level of those who will have to use the new resource/tool?iii.      Are there people with technology skills who can trouble shoot anticipated technology problems associated with new tool/resource?
  3. Technology infrastructure i.      Who is the end user (s) and do you have enough of the required associated resources (i.e. iPads, laptops, computer labs, etc.) for appropriate use?ii.      Are there methods and personnel for handling problems with the technology and associated resources, replacing and updating the technology/resource?iii.      Do you have the capacity required for such things as internet bandwidth, access, and other related issues

C)      What tool(s) will address both your goals and available resources? Narrow these down and then EVALUATE each.

  1. Usually you can get a free trial – test it out, again always keeping goals and resources in mind
  2. Find research or feedback from users on potential benefits and pitfalls of the tool/resource
  3. Consider the training and implementation needs and time frame and determine if these are a match for your available resources

The decision about what technology to use or buy or implement is not really a matter of what the best is or what’s the cheapest.  It’s a matter of what technology works best to meet YOUR educational goals and needs.

I think this is often overlooked or forgotten in the rush to become digital.  Better to have a few great technology tools and resources that really help students (or teachers or leaders) learn and achieve rather than have every technology tool/resource under the sun but not use any of them efficiently or appropriately.


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