The Importance of Teaching Technology to Students

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Author: Debra Kidder
Education Thought Leader

Teachers Need Technology

Teachers have used technology in classrooms to increase student learning for decades.  Reel-to-reel films, film strips, overhead projectors–these were all considered technology at one time.  

Then came televisions and VCRs in every classroom, VCRs evolved into DVD players, and then slowly most classrooms had at least one computer connected to the Internet.  

The Internet changed everything about the way we teach, from elementary to high school students.  

The connectivity opened doors to us that teachers never imagined possible before.  

Technology creates an engaging environment

One reason teachers incorporate technology in their classrooms is that it creates an engaging environment.  A wide variety is available for all ages and contents, designed to hold the attention of each student. Technology turns topics that may be perceived by students as dull into fun and interesting activities.

Technology connects you with your students

Many forms of digital tools in the classroom actually connect the teacher and the student.  When a student submits an assignment, the teacher has an opportunity not only to grade it, but leave comments on it, and the student can respond.  

This opens a line of communication that is especially helpful for adolescents first learning to self-advocate, but who are uncomfortable doing so face to face.  This feature also allows younger students to have virtual ‘one on one’ conversations with their teachers about their work.  

Technology improves collaboration

Using virtual workspaces minimizes the distance between students, maximizing collaboration time.  Students can work desk to desk, lab to lab, home to home.  Students can work in large and small numbers.  Documents can be simultaneously created and edited while the collaborators are miles apart.  

How Do We *Teach Technology* In The Classroom?

Are we technology teachers?

Of course, some of us are–but most of us are not.  

Elementary schools have widened their definitions of ‘Library Teachers’ to ‘Media Specialists’ and ‘Teachers of Digital Literacy.’  Many of them are tasked with the role of teaching the digital basics.  Some of these are proper typing, how to log on and off, how to open a search window, and online safety and etiquette. These things are important to start.

Then, it is up to each individual teacher to determine which products are best for his or her particular content area and grade level.  Fortunately for us, the groundwork has been laid.

Which technology works best for your content and grade level?

Part of what makes teaching with technology tricky is choosing which technology to use.  There is so much available, and much of it is free for educators.  

Presentation software, Journaling software, and Math support are just a few examples of the hundreds of types of software available for every age level and content area.

Determine what you want your outcome to be.  Are the students creating a presentation to share?  Creating art?  Writing poetry?   Try the technology yourself.  Is it engaging and simple enough for your students?

Spend time teaching the technology–without the content–to the students

The younger the student, the more time you will want to spend on teaching the technology only.  

For example, when my daughter’s school was preparing to shift to remote learning for a week, the teacher spent blocks of time teaching the students how to use the online teaching software.  She reviewed topics like how to log on, how to turn the camera and microphone on and off, and what to do in case of minor glitches.  

As the day drew closer for the students to start learning from home, the teacher began doing review work, so that students could remain focused on working on the teaching platform, not the content.  

Many of this teacher’s colleagues thought she was wasting precious teaching time.  But as it turned out, she was the wise one.  

Her work paid off.  My six-year-old was able to embed a video inside a presentation slide that week.  On her own.  While other teachers spent many precious teaching hours that week trying to unmute microphones or re-send passwords, my daughter’s teacher spent every teaching moment *actually teaching content.*

Teaching the technology minus the content is a wise investment.  Troubleshooting upfront means saving time for teaching content later.

Technology As The Assessment

Before you introduce the technology, create an assessment to determine if students have reached mastery of the medium itself.  If you create an assignment using certain software, but the understanding of that software has not been determined, you do not know if you are grading the content or the use of the technology.

Using a tech-only assessment tool

Whatever your content area, ask your students to choose a topic they know.  Or like.  Or can express a strong opinion.  Then, ask the students to use the chosen technology to express their knowledge or opinion.  In your instructions, clearly state that your assessment is on the use of technology, not the content.  Create a rubric to accompany the assessment.  

You will quickly see who understands the use of technology and who needs more learning time with it.

Determine mastery

The use of a rubric is important here.  Students will be able to see what parts of the technology need to be understood, and what will be expected of them when the next assignment does not include content they already know. Allow the assessment results to inform your next steps

Apply the content to the technology

The end result is creating a technology-based lesson and assessment.   With so many choices available, there is definitely one appropriate for every content area and grade level.

Conclusion

Technology-based assessments and lessons raise test results, ensuring that students remain engaged and focused even during blended and distance learning. Both summative assessment and formative assessments yield higher student performance and long-term student achievement.  Simply remember to lay a solid foundation and teach proper use of your chosen technology first.


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To learn more about Foqas and how we support teachers: visit www.foqas.org


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