As an instructional technology integration specialist, it is expected that my focus always be about the technology. Many requests come in from leaders and instructors asking for advice, guidance, and instruction on how to use specific technologies for student learning. I say, this is the wrong question to start with. Focusing on “using” technology can be very counter productive, especially when so much is riding on content knowledge and skills gained by students. Sure, it can be helpful to be aware of which digital tools and resources are out there but not necessary if you know clearly what you want students to be able to do in your course, unit, chapter, lesson, workshop, e-learning, etc.
So if you don’t start with technology then where do you start? You start by identifying the basic instructional goal and behavioral objectives before you can begin to understand how and which technology tools will best support learning. If you’re differentiating, this is critical to help you guide the design of content, process of learning, or product.
I know what the learners need to be able to do but I still am unsure how to use technology? I often explore these questions in determining how and which technologies may be most effective in reaching the instructional goal and objectives:
- How will you know the learners met the goal? Are students creating, designing, performing, or producing a product?
- How will the learners gain the knowledge to reach the objectives? Research, collaboration, project-based or hands-on learning?
- Is the learning independent, guided, whole group, problem- based?
Each of the questions lend themselves to opportunities to employ different digital tools and resources. Collaboration and research may involve independent and group learning using blended learning models and such tools as YouTube, Gale Research, .Gov and .Org websites, and even simulators and gizmos. If learners are producing a product the focus will be on the type of product. This could include using presentation tools, poster creation, video production, even building a website. Lastly, if learners are exploring through problem-based and project-based learning multiple collaboration tools offered by Google Apps along with probes and simulators will be helpful in studying and recording progress with learned material.
Whether your designing learning for education or business, focusing on the technology is counter productive. We all know technology is very helpful and can be very productive and effective in learning. But with there being such a big interest in e-learning and blended learning we must remember to maintain our basic principals of good design and always start with the instructional goals not the technology.