Technology for Teaching
Technology has altered the landscape of higher education. The Internet, laptops, PDAs, and other electronic resources and means have altered the way students access, share and use information. Possibilities offered by technology include fast access to vast bodies of information, resemblance of real life experience through simulation, collaboration that spans time and distance, synchronous and asynchronous communication, mobility, and self-paced learning, just to mention a few. How are you responding to the seemingly ever-increasing technology literacy of today's and tomorrow's students and the possibilities technology offers for higher education?
When contemplating the use of technology for educational purposes it is important to remember that technology is a means and not an end in itself. As with other tools, the effective use of technology depends on understanding its features, functions, and possibilities and matching those with the outcome to be accomplished. Grounding the use of technology in sound pedagogy is another key factor for increasing the likelihood of facilitating students' achievement of given learning outcomes through the use of technology.
Purdue has a sound support system for faculty to investigate and utilize technology to accomplish our teaching goals and learning outcomes for our students. There are pedagogical and technical services and support whether we want to use a simple Web page, a course management system, evaluate students, have an entire course online and/or an asynchronous capacity.
- Roblyer, M.D. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
- Smaldino, S., Russell, J., Heinich, R., & Molenda, M. (2005). Instructional technology and media for learning, (8th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Words of Wisdom
- Match technology with purpose
Make sure you begin with the end in mind by clarifying the learning outcome for which you want to use the technology. This will increase the likelihood of using technology in effective ways rather than just hopping on the technology bandwagon.
- Practice in the room where you will be teaching or presenting
Every room is different. Know how to connect your computer or use the computer that's provided in the room. When ordering equipment, be familiar with the terminology so you can place your order clearly and correctly. Know the number for A-V Scheduling, or the ITaP help desk so you can get help on the spot when you need it. Or, keep your cell phone with you so you can call a colleague who's knowledgeable and savvy about the equipment.
- Have an alternative plan
Even with your best preparation, technology can fail you unexpectedly. You can check the overhead prior to class and have it work, just to experience it fail in the middle of the class. Be prepared to teach your lesson without the technology if need be. In other words, how would you teach the lesson if you couldn't use your PowerPoint presentation?
- Make sure students can see it
Lettering and visuals must be read easily if they are going to contribute to learning. You must ensure legibility because a visual cannot begin to do its job unless all viewers can see the words and images. A guideline for a size of lettering is to make lowercase letters 1/2 inch high for each 10 feet of viewer distance. This means, for example, that to be legible to a student seated in the last seat of a 30-foot-long classroom the lettering would have to be at least 1 1/2 inches in height.
Details of visuals and diagrams also must be legible to all students. Before using any media, walk to the back of your classroom, where the students farthest from the front will be seated. Be sure you can see the lettering and visuals on the board, PowerPoint slides or overhead transparencies.
Making sure that students can see also involves not obstructing their view with your own body, choosing the right kind of lighting in the room, and using contrasting colors for text and background of the visuals.
- Avoid information overload
Resist the temptation of putting everything you know into one slide. Rather, use key words and fill in the missing information verbally. This not only spares students from visual and cognitive overload but also encourages them to take notes (which is an extremely effective learning technique) to fill in the missing parts.
- Avoid the extraneous
One of the challenges in using technology is to keep the main thing the main thing. With all the many options available through technology, it is easy to get carried away with including fancy details and effects. However, the inclusion of unrelated details might actually hinder rather than help learning because of providing distraction rather than support for the material to be learned by the students.