3 reasons I use technology every time I teach

I recently co-taught a graduate course for inservice teachers. One of the modules I was leading was about educational technology. So, given the limited time (about 4 instructional hours), I had to do some hard thinking about what I wanted to discuss concerning ed tech. I settled on three main points.

1) Technology can be used to promote the goals we have for students. If we want students to collaborate, perhaps a shared google document will do the trick. Want students to connect ideas rather than memorize descrete facts? There are many online concept mapping tools available. To help students communicate, I can have them engage in various social media platforms.

2) Technology can account for learning theory. If I want to represent some content more concretely, a YouTube video might help. To determine students’ prior knowledge, I can use any number of online formative assessment tools. When designing an assignment, I can use MS Word to ensure that any readings I’m using are grade-level appropriate.

3) Technology is not just digital. This was, for me, the most important point to be made with my class. When trying to make something more concrete in math, base ten blocks might be better than any digital tool. When helping kids work on editing their writing, a piece of paper might illustrate things a software program can’t. If I want to teach kids about shadows, the educational technology I need is a lamp.

Because of this third point, I can say with certainty that on any given day I am using technology in my teaching. Some days we are using laptops, others we use whiteboards. But to say one lesson benefits from educational technology and the other does not demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of technology and a shallow rationale for using educational technology. 

When my class redefined educational technology as “tools for learning”, many of the teachers felt liberated. While we shouldn’t actively avoid using digital technology, forcing ourselves to use digital technology is equally problematic. Many of the teachers felt our definition of technology helped them reframe the pressure they were getting from administrators. They felt emboldened to fight for best practice and worry less about meeting unrealistic and short-sighted digital technology demands. Digital technology does not need to be the constant in our classrooms, learning does. 

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12 Responses to 3 reasons I use technology every time I teach

  1. What online tools have you used successfully for concept mapping? I have looked at a couple apps in Google Drive that are ok but don’t allow for mapping in the manner I would students construct them. I’ve used Google Drawings and GoFormative a bit too.


  2. becky1129 says:

    Educational tools, great. Digital technology, I’m more tentative about. I’m glad you mention the difference.

    I’m not against digital technology, and it’s certainly not going anywhere. However, it changes so rapidly that I wonder, even if I’m in the know now, will I still be in 5 years? 10 years? What about when I’m 60 and teaching? Although we want to be relevant and modern and use the best tools we have to help our students, I think the most important things are to understand how students learn and know how to be an effective teacher.


    • jerridkruse says:

      Definitely agree. However, just like we want doctors to be considering the most recent tech developments, I think one thing we should be doing is at least maintain an attitude of curiosity toward digital. That doesn’t mean devote hours and hours, but at least being open to things we do hear about. Too often we take sides – either pro digital no matter what or never digital. I know you’re not arguing for either extreme, just something I see out there.


      • becky1129 says:

        Certainly. I think it actually differs on a case-by-case basis. One tool in the hands of a teacher might be extremely effective because he/she understands it well and knows how he/she wants to implement it. Another teacher who is just told that it’s an effective tool might feel obligated to use it, struggle to work with it, and just end up wasting valuable class time.

        In order to be able to use a technology effectively, a teacher needs to understand its potential and how it can be used. I worry that when people are told to use more technology, all that happens is that kids are given iPads with apps at school (not saying that iPads & apps can’t be educational or that students shouldn’t be exposed to them). Teachers are told a lot of things are helpful for students, like we should incorporate physical movement, visual art, technology, music, rhythm, and more. It’s unlikely that many teachers will be extraordinarily well-rounded and proficient in all of those areas. So what you end up with is teachers who might just hand students an iPad in order to “incorporate technology.” I’d rather teachers be encouraged to learn about new technologies so that they CAN implement them as they see fit but aren’t necessarily forced to.

        Having more tools to choose from is a good thing, absolutely. I just worry about teachers being pressured to utilize certain technologies to appear more high-tech, when those teachers might not use them all that effectively. I’m not saying you’re advocating that. It’s just something I worry about.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure I agree with defining technology as a tool. It often fuels a pragmatic notion that all technology is neutral and we can simply control how we use it; and that’s not true. It also becomes problematic with digital platforms, where the technology is as much a space as a tool. But I’m not sure how I would define technology. :/


    • jerridkruse says:

      I don’t know that defining it more broadly makes it more neutral. I think of the phrase, “to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. This clearly illustrates tech (even tools as tech) are not neutral.

      I think a space (even non-digital) is at least partially defined by the technology. This doesn’t separate digital from other technologies, but reaffirms that such ideas (space & non-neutrality) apply to all tech, not just digital tech.


  4. holcunator says:

    The biggest problem I see is that students are unable to tell distinguish the difference between educational and entertainment use of technology.


    • jerridkruse says:

      Yes. That’s perhaps one reason the “engagement”of students with ed tech wears off so quickly. They aren’t using it for entertainment, but that’s what they initially associate tech with.


  5. As an educator trying to incorporate more technology into the classroom, I really appreciate your comment, “When my class redefined educational technology as “tools for learning”, many of the teachers felt liberated.” I think we all want what is best for our students or what will make learning more concrete but often feel inadequate or unprepared for the technology we face. If we all look at technology as a “tool for learning” and focus on the result of using the technology more than our fear of the unknown, we will find success in our classrooms. I intend to continue researching new ideas for incorporating technology into my classes, keeping in mind that it is a tool for learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As an educator I agree that technology reaches beyond something digital. I once did an activity with my students that showed how technology is something that fixes a problem or helps us in some way. For example, a paper clip may help us organize and keep papers together. I find that we use a variety of ways to present learning in the classroom. Two days a week I have either a class set of iPads or a class set of laptops. I find that many people think that students are glued to technology but I have learned quite the contrary. The more screen time my students have, the more bored they get or disengaged they become. The other three days a week I use the white board and the chalk board to deliver my lessons. My classroom is also equipped with a document camera and a smart board that I do not use as often. I know the many benefits of these two pieces of equipment but I also feel as if we can’t rely on them solely. There are times and there will be times that technology fails us, and we must be prepared to function when they are unavailable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: 3 reasons I use technology every time I teach — Teaching as Dynamic | Site Title

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