Using Technology in the Classroom - Intro
by Akira Kamiya

Whether we like it or not we as teachers are using technology all the time. Its unavoidable. Chalk and the blackboard would be the most simple examples. The Audio Cassette player, the VCR and TV are others. These are all just tools for opening avenues for learning.

Study in the area of neuroscience is now showing that by offering lessons in a multitude of media, using multiple means of expression, we increase our chances of connecting with our learners. For example a student who has trouble with numbers may benefit by seeing a graph of the data. So the objective of an effective teacher is to harness all the tools that one has a his/her disposal.

You will notice here that I stayed away from the term “Multimedia”. I did this intentionally because the term “multimedia” as most people use it, is unnecessarily narrow. Its more than an interactive web site. Its really about looking at ALL your technology options and seeing how you can deliver your content by as many avenues as possible.

Other research also shows that technology in the class room can also increase a student’s retention and also deepen their level of immersion. The longer a student is interested and the deeper they can go when they are, are obviously critical factors to their learning. So where appropriate search out applications of technology that can help you.

For some reason when we consider using the computer as a classroom tool, a certain fear factor comes in and some teachers will actually run from it like a plague. Having a certain level of comfort with the technology being used is the critical factor. One of the features that make computers so daunting is that they can do so many things. Therefore its not immediately clear what it is that they exactly do.

A toaster heats bread, a drill makes holes, an over head projector displays transparencies. But a computer is a multi-use tool. With innovative software it can serve us as, a pencil, or as a phone, a tape recorder, a camera. It’s also a message sender, image creator, document reader, sound editor, video viewer etc. This “multi-usefulness” is exactly what makes it such a powerful, powerful tool. The power of it creates this almost unnatural desire to use it and thus our immense frustration when we can’t use it as we imagine.

Our task as teachers, tech coordinators and staff development coordinators is to first see what it is that we are doing now and look at ways that this teaching material could be better delivered with technology. But remember this is not just an exercise. We are not advocating for technology just for technology’s sake. I am not a believer in “just because its new and trendy that we must use it!” We need to find the areas where these newest forms of technology are really most helpful for our teaching. A lot of what is being made and sold today is driven by marketing teams, where profit making is the main and sometimes only impetus. Just because its technology doesn’t mean its useful for teaching and learning. We really need to pick our spots of emphasis here. Economize your time and efforts.

Remember start out small and simple. As time goes on you will absorb new skills and soon you will be creating your lessons with all the new tools in mind from the start. And this is when the fun really begins ! So task one is to acquaint yourself with the technologies that are out there and gain the skills, little by little.

In my opinion, the biggest impact that the new computer age has brought us is the increased ability to communicate. Mainly through text via keyboard input and onscreen output at speeds that people 20 years ago never imagined possible. By communication, I mean tools like email, instant chat, web based discussion boards. The modern classroom can be extended both in time and space using these technologies. From my perspective this is where the most efforts can be placed for the most reward.

Others may find other areas of focus. Regardless the bottom line is are you and your students engaged? Always use this as your measure. Its what’s matters in the long run.

 

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