By Jericho Hockett (Lecturer, Psychology)
Recently, C-TEL sponsored a number of faculty’s attendance at the Kansas Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s (KAECT) spring conference. Although an obvious emphasis at the conference was that technology is increasingly important in education, that wasn’t actually the most important message that I took home. No, I grew up in the Technology Age, and was privileged to have early access to various learning technologies. Thus, I got the message that technology is important in learning from the many hours I fondly remember poking around on my Speak and Read, munching numbers, and trying to figure out just where in the world Carmen San Diego was.
Now, of course, the pace of technological change makes the learning technologies of my childhood seem like ancient history–and I’m not even that old! In fact, technological advances are made so quickly, it is expected that “we will advance roughly the same amount in the next 18 months as we did in the previous thirty years.” I don’t care how tech savvy you are (or think you are), that’s a staggering amount of technological development to even imagine keeping up with! Given all the tech tools–and tech distractions–that exist, we must be strategic and clearwith the technologies we decide to incorporate into the classroom. That’s the biggest message I took home from the KAECT conference.
When I say strategic, I mean that we must be careful to use technologies to serve specific educational goals–not just because they are available, and not just because they happen to be innovative. For example, I’ve heard sung the praises of Prezi as an amazing Power Point alternative. However, I have yet to see a successful Prezi presentation (ironically, even at the KAECT conference). Perhaps this outcome may be explained by the fact that I’ve only seen Prezi being used–from all appearances–because it was cool and new, not because it was intended to add anything substantial to the point of the users’ presentations. Conversely, there are certainly scenarios in which Prezi could help fulfill educational outcomes. For example, Power Point is more than sufficient for most linearly-ordered presentations, but maybe Prezi would be better for projects that rely on concept mapping. Whatever the specific tools at our disposal (and there are many of them–Prezi isn’t even the hottest new thing any more), we should use them strategically or not at all; otherwise, the tool is superfluous for the job. And let’s face it–our students have enough digital distractions.
Strategic use of learning technologies is only half the lesson, though. We must also be clear. Why we use the various available technologies–and particularly why we ask our students to do so and how they should go about it–should be transparent. Students shouldn’t have to guess why you’ve incorporated any aspect of technology into your educational approach, and they definitely shouldn’t have to guess how you want them to use it. For example, one colleague at KAECT suggested using evaluation rubrics for the effective use of technological learning tools (such as those available in the book Mastering Media Literacy, Solution Tree Publications, 2014). Without this clarity, our students may suffer in showing their learning, not because they don’t “get it,” but because we haven’t appropriately equipped them to demonstrate that they get it through the technological tools we’ve required.
In sum, instead of becoming digitally distracted ourselves, let’s stay forward-focused by being strategic and clear in our use of educational technologies. That way, when this generation’s Carmen San Diegos (that is, their Tweets, their Vines, their I-Clickers, their Prezis, etc.) fade into fond memories (remember, that should only take about 18 months now!), the technological lessons we teach our students–that is, when and how to use tech tools–will remain relevant.