With technology some people fear making mistakes and others resist change. Sometimes the technology has poorly designed interfaces and counter-intuitive procedures. The devices themselves can go awry. Many people need a guide for new technology, and that is where the instructor comes in. After working in technical support for a few years, I have the confidence to help adult learners navigate their way through technology for the best result their education can get. Below are reasons to use technology, three technologies I would implement in a class, and a summary of the risks involved.
Incorporating Technology: Why and How
Staying with the tried and true, old school methods would be easy. People may not enjoy lectures and note-taking, but they are familiar with those strategies. Unfortunately, as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives, we need to learn how to adapt to maintain our skills.
Technology carries many pedagogical benefits. Simulations, for example, put students in situations that would be too impractical to do in real life. When the subject is unwieldy, dangerous, or microscopic, there may be no other options (Nilson, 2010).
In spite of the benefits, many adults lack technological literacy. Within the first days of the class, I would use a survey to find the students’ comfort level. If a significant part of the class feels insecure, any technology introduction will have to be done slowly. Time will need to be scheduled to demonstrate how to use the devices, and perhaps peer groups can be formed so students who are confident can help those who are not (Barkley, 2010). Working together, we can bring everyone up to speed on the technology we will use in class.
One of the easiest technologies to use in class is an electronic book. These have been around for years, and an increasing number of academic resources can be found in electronic format (Buckley & Johnson, 2013). Early on, a dedicated electronic reader was needed to access an electronic book. Now, many other mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets can also run applications to access electronic books. This makes texts for class portable and accessible.
In addition to portability, some electronic books have extra features such as embedded links, quizzes, and slideshows (Warren, 2010). These added features can enhance a student’s learning by presenting information in a different manner, which addresses the idea of multiple intelligences and other learning styles (Barkley, 2010). The programs that allow students to make notes and highlight the text would help students keep their notes relevant and save time when note-taking (The New Media Consortium & EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2011).
WebQuests would be another straightforward technique to implement. A WebQuest sends a team of students to a set of provided webpages to research an open-ended question. After studying the information, the students develop a presentation showing the results of the research, establishing a solution to the problem, and defending their decision (Barkley, 2010).
Using a WebQuest incorporates some strategies even technological novices are familiar with such as research, problem-solving, and presenting. Using this prior knowledge in conjunction with new techniques on the computer will help students make connections and construct knowledge (Merriam, Cafferella, & Baumgartner, 2007). WebQuests also take advantage of the gains available in group work (Nilson, 2010).
A third technique I would implement would be a discussion forum. These are asynchronous communication systems in which students could answer and discuss questions. This format is beneficial for those students who are too shy to participate in class discussions or those who need more time to come up with their answers (Brookfield, 2006).
Using technology is a bit risky for at least three reasons. The first risk is that technology does not always cooperate. At the most inopportune times, the servers will go down or someone’s device will fail. Having a secondary plan is necessary. Students could share equipment or a low-tech solution could be used until the problem can be fixed (Nilson, 2010).
Another risk is the student who feels too incompetent with technology. These students might benefit from mixed ability groups so more advanced students can help others (Barkley, 2010). A few extra sessions during office hours or outside of class to teach and practice the necessary skills might also be helpful (Davis, 2009).
Conversely, some advanced students may assume they have everything well in hand. Rather than pay attention to the lesson, they might tune out by surfing to unauthorized websites or checking in with social media. Dealing with that could involve roving the room at random, establishing and enforcing rules for technology use in class, and giving explicit instructions about when technology can be used (Nilson, 2010).
Using technology in education can be risky. Like any other skill, students come into the class with a wide variety of abilities. Some approach electronics with fear, and others approach with arrogance. Both attitudes are counter-productive. Equipment may fail when the lesson of the day based on it. As technology becomes more pervasive in our environment, students need to become more adept, so teaching with technology is a risk worth taking.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Buckley, M. & Johnson, M. (2013). The why’s and how’s of integrating downloadable academic books. Computers in Libraries. 33(1), 9-11, 32. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/jan13/index.shtml
Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
The New Media Consortium & EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2011). The horizon report: 2011 edition. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/HR2011.pdf
Warren, J. (2010). The progression of digital publishing: innovation and the e-volution of e-books. The International Journal of the Book.7(4), 33-55 Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/reprints/2010/RAND_RP1411.pdf