5 things to think about before introducing technology in your classroom

5 things to think about before introducing technology in your classroom

Technology in the classroom is seen as the next revolution in education. But what needs to be considered before it is introduced?

1. Why just using robots in the classroom doesn’t work

Knowing your students is a vital part of integrating technology into your classroom. You just can’t set and forget.

Just because a digital tool works well for one group of Year 7 students, doesn’t guarantee success for another group. Equally, just because the use of a digital tool worked in Period 2 on Monday doesn't mean it will be as effective in Period 7 on Friday with the same group of students.

Technology cannot simply be transplanted from one classroom to another. Teaching is a people business, after all.

2. Understand the content and purpose of your lesson

Content needs to come before technology.  Do it the other way, and you can ruin your lesson.

Imagine the purpose of your lesson is to develop synthesis skills and teach students to draw themes and ideas from a large amount of information.

There are digital tools that are great at this.  TagCrowd creates a word cloud from sections of text. The more common the word, the larger its size. It’s quick and easy to see the themes, visually. However, with the click of the button, the app is doing the work, not the student.

Research into visual learning aids also shows technology, when not used well, can reinforce misconceptions in students, and create challenging content problems for teachers.  Use with caution.

student on computer looking at generated word cloud
With the click of the button, the app is doing the work, not the student.

3. Consider the relationship between teaching, learning and technology

Teaching is not simply telling. Learning is not simply listening. The two exist in a symbiotic relationship. It’s vital to understand this relationship — or pedagogy — when considering which educational technologies might work in your classroom.

It’s not about representing the content or making things easier for the teacher. When it comes to technology, there needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship for teachers and students.

When that happens, digital technology becomes effectively integrated in the classroom. That’s where the magic happens.

4. Understand your school context, and know you can influence it

Appreciating the context where you work is pivotal in shaping how you use technology in your classroom. The expectations of school leaders, the ideals of parents and caregivers, the capacity of your colleagues and the values you wish to impart are all a part of this context.

But my research has shown it’s not a one-way street - teachers and their teaching are not always shaped by the school context. Teachers and their activities with technology can influence their school context, and with that, create change.

5. A new framework to use when introducing technology into your classroom

After considering students, content, pedagogy and context you are well placed to make a thoughtful decision about using technology.

Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler have developed a framework called TPACK to show how technology can be effectively integrated in the classroom.

It represents the combination of Technological Pedagogical And Content knowledge and is represented by this Venn diagram.

TPACK Venn diagram
TPACK Venn diagram. Reproduced by permission of the publisher © 2012 by tpack.org.

At the same time, you can also reconsider how you use things — pens, whiteboards and post-it notes — that we no longer consider as technology. These basic tools have great qualities that may be far more effective to teach particular content to particular students at a particular time for a particular purpose.

After all, isn’t that what we should be striving to do as teachers?

Eilks, I., Witteck, T., & Pietzner, V. (2009). A critical discussion of the efficacy of using visual learning aids from the internet to promote understanding, illustrated with examples explaining the daniell voltaic cell. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 5(2), 145-152

Phillips, M., Koehler, M. & Rosenberg, J. (2016). Looking outside the circles: Considering the contexts influencing TPACK development and enactment. Paper presented at Society for Information Technologies in Education Conference, Savannah, Georgia, USA p. 2779 – 2786

Banister, S., & Reinhart, R. V. (2011). TPCK for impact: Classroom teaching practices that promote social justice and narrow the digital divide in an urban middle school. Computers in the Schools28(1), 5-26.