Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 5 Rights of Technology (Part 1 of 2)

Technology in education is a buzzword that has largely become a cliché, probably even before the Internet came into everyone’s lives.  But technology in education is still an important issue for consideration; it’s the application of technology in education that is most challenging.  It’s an important tool and central for helping students enter into the job market with relevant skills. But it is a tool that needs consideration before using.

What you’ll find herein is a brief consideration of what I consider to be the 5 Rights of Technology.  This is largely adapted from the 5 Rights of Medical Administration (6 years working in residential program apparently left its mark).  These are not perfect; given the changing technology of the last 15 years, perfection seems impossible or maybe just irrelevant.  Instead, this works as a succinct guide for faculty to use when contemplating how to implement technology in the class room.

1.  The Right Alignment
There’s been many times I’ve come across a tool (iPads) or program (blogging) and thought, “This would be great in the classroom.”  Of course, getting excited is a whole lot easier than actually doing it.  Indeed, there have certainly been several partial failures in my teaching with using technology and a large part of that has to do with the idea of alignment.

When considering technology for the classroom, the approach must be one that works with your assessments, goals, and objectives.  The technology should facilitate or explicitly address one or more of these or else you risk losing students.  To be sure, we always risk losing students in a myriad of ways, but the idea is to use the technology to engage them and make the interactions more relevant or expedient within their lives.  If you can’t provide a means of expressing why the technology tool can facilitate specific learning in your specific course, then you’re probably a bit out of alignment.

With any technology, you should research it a bit to see how other educators have used it or just to get a fuller understanding of what kind of tool it can be for the course.

2.  The Right Accessibility
North Shore Community College serves particular populations and it’s important to keep that in mind.  Some schools require laptops while other schools are providing tablets to their students.  However, we can’t expect uniformity in the technological prowess and resources of our students (nor should we).  The technology you use should be relevant to the student’s lives and facilitate learning; not hinder it.

For instance, I go back and forth about using eBooks because I recognize this does hamper the experience of students who don’t have access to computers at home or have internet access in the case of eBooks from online services where downloading isn’t an option.  In this instance, to use the technology (eBook) means complicating and inhibiting learning for some students while those that could access the technology are not negatively impacted by the choice to shy away from the eBook (after all, they are welcome to purchase it on their own in that version).

But before swearing off any technological advances in the face of limited resources or inability to help everyone, I highly suggest you come chat with us at Academic Technology  to see if there is some middle ground or other option.  For instance, there has been interesting work and discussion about useful purposes for cellphones in the classroom.  But again, we can’t expect everyone to have a cellphone or be able to freely use texting or smart-phone apps and such.  But that’s where it might be good to check in with Dave Houle in Instructional Technology and Design to see how you could incorporate cellphones along with Clickers which could supplement the use of cellphones.