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What to do (and not to do) with your iStuff

Last week a friend of mine told me about one of her coworkers who was so excited about her new iPhone that she used it any chance she could get, including during her classes. This didn’t sound too bad to me at first. After all, there are plenty of educational apps available for the iPhone. But then she elaborated on the iPhone use. I won’t go into great detail for fear of revealing identities, but let’s just say, her iPhone use involved Wikipedia and having her large class of 8-year-olds huddled around her iPhone to watch a video.

It didn’t sound like a golden moment in instructional technology.

Contrast that use of iTech with a more reasonable one. My husband downloaded some kind of graphing application to his iPad, which he plans to connect to a classroom projector to display 3-d models of different mathematical equations (here ends my understanding of the math he teaches). It’s a great app with fun, interactive graphics that will help his students visualize the math they are studying.

In my last post, Miranda Bennett, a former colleague, left what I thought was a smart comment: “A few moments of reflection about what you’re trying to accomplish with a given gadget can make a real difference in how you use it (or even whether you choose to acquire it in the first place).” This has been on my mind quite a bit lately as I’ve been planning and thinking about upcoming classes. Will making use of classroom technology like instructor stations, student computers, and projectors make my lesson stronger? At what point do I just need to unplug everything and have a conversation with the students? When will using our wired classroom prove to be beneficial? I know that there are aspects of our teaching that are always going to have to be mechanical (here’s how you use the catalog, database, citation linker, etc.), but when I want to focus on transferable skills like developing a workable research question or an effective research strategy, or even just figuring what kinds of information are needed to answer a research question, what technology will I need beyond a chalkboard, my brain, and my voice? What technology have others found to be most helpful?



1 Comment so far

  1. Miranda Bennett

    Well, as you know, I went to Rice, I must be smart! 🙂

    Your reflections on when and how to use technology for instruction made me realize something interesting about this book I’m reading called “How Learning Works.” The book is a very accessible distillation of research on learning and a guide to applying the lessons of that research to teaching, and it actually has strikingly little to say (in the first four or so chapters, anyway) about technology. It’s not hard to think of ways technology could be used to support the authors’ recommendations (concept-mapping software, for example, or shared online learning journals), but the principles discussed seem to be largely independent of technology. A point for me to ponder as I continue to work my way through the book!

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