Getting Started With Educational Technology

For a number of years I’ve given workshops to faculty (both at the U of S and my previous institution) and I teach an undergraduate course in educational technology. Regardless of the group that I’m speaking with, I always give the same few points of advice and thought it appropriate to share them here.

  1. Start small. Pick one or two tools to try out instead of trying to do everything at once. Don’t start a blog, join Twitter, introduce clickers into your class, take a crack at blended learning, and try to redo all of your presentations in Prezi. You’ll only get frustrated and likely won’t stick to using any of it because you won’t have a chance to get a clear view of what possibilities these hold for you and your students.
  2. Never post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss, mother or grandchildren to see. Facebook is not private. Twitter is definitely¬†not private. Even email can end up in the hands of the wrong person (have you ever accidentally had autocomplete come up with the wrong name and then you sent the email without noticing or had someone forward a message they shouldn’t have?). I also point out the grandchildren part because the Internet is the new permanent record.
  3. Always try out a tool or Website before you ask your students to do the same. Just as we shouldn’t ask students to read a book or article we’ve never even looked at, we shouldn’t do this with technology either. Make sure that you have at least¬†a basic familiarity with a tool before asking your students to use it. You need to be sure of the capabilities you expect the students to make use of or you’re going to run into a lot of issues along the way.
  4. Before introducing a new tool or Website into your course (or your own learning) figure out what issue or objective you’re trying to address and then find the best tool for the job. Don’t pick up a hammer and then look for something to whack.

Educational technology, while when integrated well can help facilitate the learning process, only causes more problems when chosen simply because you heard “everybody’s using it” or in a way that could be reckless for your career or marriage (posting inappropriate party pictures to Facebook). Think of what you want to accomplish, find something that might help you do the job (ask us at GMCTE or colleagues who use educational technology or even students), learn how to use it, see what it can do for your own learning and then integrate it into your teaching.

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