How do you evaluate current and future trends and tools in educational technology for educational impact?
This is a loaded question. I think we need to back up and be honest and ask ourselves, are we truly evaluating tools for their educational impact? Or are we just using the tool for its novelty? I actually recently had a conversation with a teacher who was bent on using a specific tool that, in my opinion, didn’t really need to be used or work well with the intended outcome of the activity. I asked her what made her specifically want to use that tool. Her response, “Because it’s cool.”
A lot of how we evaluate current and future trends and tools in educational technology for their educational impact needs to start with our instruction. No tool is going to positively impact students on its own. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use tools. What I’m saying is our answer for using the tool needs to be more purposeful than “because it’s cool.” We actually presented recently at TCEA on a session over what to do when you do not have enough devices. We had a rotations about station, groups, collaboration, and more. The one rotation though that I think caused people to stop and reflect the most was our station over evaluating effective tools and their purpose. A lot of people answered honestly that they didn’t really stop to evaluate, reflect, or ask why they were using the tool. When forced to do so, it completely changed the impact of the lesson. For many, it really advanced their lesson from the Substitution level to the Augmented or Redefinition level. So, in a roundabout way, to evaluate current and future trends for their impact, we have to first have sound instruction and then ask ourselves why do we need a tool, where will it have the most impact, and then which tool does what we need to accomplish this goal.
We have a working app and website list for our district where we evaluate apps on a very basic level. We provide the description, price, user age restrictions, whether it saves to the camera role, whether it can be integrated into other programs, etc. This information is all well and good in how to evaluate it, but the impact will come from having sound instruction and purposeful planning to begin with.
In what ways do you use technology to support teaching and learning? What digital resources or innovations have you experimented with?
As a technology instructional specialist, I am part of a team that is tasked with staying on top of trends but also honing what we currently do and making sure that we do it well. I think we are at a place where we do what we do really well, but it can be difficult to take on new trends. There are only three of us in the entire district so we are always meeting with teachers, principals, or other professionals, planning or implementing training, answering email, and more. It makes it difficult to take the time to research and test out new trends in technology. One way I support the teachers since we don’t have a lot of manpower is by creating a Google Site with all of our district trainings on it for educators to access and learn at their own pace. Any training we offer goes on it for people to refer back to or to learn if they didn’t get to attend. We also use it for trainer or trainers to convey a consistent message across campuses. Another way we support teaching and learning is by creating online learning modules through Canvas for teachers to work through at their own pace. The teachers then earn digital and sticker badges for their learning. The digital resources I experiment with the most are G Suite and Nearpod. I am a Google Certified Trainer and a PioNear and we have to keep up with our training to maintain it because it is always being updated and changing. One innovation experience I have had recently has been when we hosted an EdCamp. I think the innovation comes in the collaboration and sharing of ideas with peers. McKenna (2016) comes to a similar conclusion when she discusses the importance of communication among district leaders and superintendents. Their connectivity and openness to learn and share ideas from one another has lead to some of the most innovative thinking education has ever seen. I think without the ability to be connected, we are limited or closed off and our divergent thinking gets less and less over time (Robinson, 2017).
McKenna, L. (2016, November 30). Networked: How Today's Education Leaders Make Decisions. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/networked-how-todays-education-leaders-make-decisions-laura-mckenna
Robinson, K. (n.d.). Changing education paradigms. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms