The worst words you could ever hear as an Educational Technologist

The worst words you could ever hear as an Educational Technologist

Me: “So why do you want to use ______?”

Instructor: “Because it’ll be cool”

Me: “So why do you want to buy ______?”

“Because we have the money”

I’ve had this experience more times than I care to.

Money and technology should never dictate how teaching happens or how instructional problems are solved. What do I mean by instructional problems? I mean the things we want to accomplish in class with our students, that we don’t have a plan for, that we don’t know how to accomplish quite yet.

This is where instructional designers and educational technologists are your greatest ally. Want to get anonymous feedback from your students on their understanding in real time? Want to have your students write a report together when they live in different cities? These are very common instructional problems that never start with technology.

The best lesson I ever learned as an educational technologist is this: “A Pen is considered technology. So is paper”.

The use of technology in education should support pedagogy, not the other way around.

If you’re an instructor and you look at a technology and say the words “This is cool”. That’s fine, there’s a lot of cool stuff out there: Apple watches, iPads, HoloLenses and the like. But for the love of all things only, don’t put this cool technology first. The worst thing you can do is think “This is cool! I want to use this in my classroom BECAUSE it’s cool”.

People are always baffled when they present an instructional problem to me, and I suggest a pen and paper solution. What we’re striving for are less barriers to students and instructors, so why wouldn’t I suggest this?

The other angle of this is funding and grant funds specifically. Last year a department at my college was awarded a large sum of money and immediately announced to our whole campus (without me hearing about it at all) “We’re going to buy a fleet of Kindles”. Kindle e-readers? Kindle Fire tablets? What?

So I replied “Why?”

“Because we have the money”

“What are you going to do with them?”

It was clear they hadn’t thought it through, that they were putting the technology before the pedagogy. Turned out they wanted to use the Kindles to access an online resource used by their students. After 2 minutes of testing with my own Kindle Fire, I determined that the resource would not load on a Kindle, which once again, proved the same point.

To solve your instructional problem, use the most appropriate tool for the job, whether that’s a piece of equipment worth thousands of dollars or a pencil worth 20 cents.

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