5 Ways to Develop an Instructional Strategy Using Technology
The 21st century classroom. Almost two decades into said century, the term is still bandied about with wild abandon, yet are a majority of our classrooms truly prepared for and engaged in 21st century learning? In addition to flexible-use space, every vision for a 21st century classroom incorporates the meaningful integration of educational technology (edtech). But what does that mean? Here are five ways to develop an instructional strategy that uses technology to manage, facilitate, and enhance learning, not to have edtech be the center of attention.
The Space is the Place
One of the first things you learn about classroom management is the physical setup of the learning environment itself. If your goal is to be a facilitator of student learning instead of leading a completely teacher-centered classroom, consider how you will set up your classroom so that you may monitor all student screens at the same time or how the physical use of devices will help your students collaborate, not isolate themselves.
Unfortunately, the one-room schoolhouse setup still seems to be the default mode for so many classrooms. It’s time to think outside the box. Start by thinking about all the ways your physical space could be set up for flexible use, collaboration, and to best prepare your students to achieve specific educational objectives. There are so many options to use physical space to promote thinking and collaboration: Maker spaces, station-based, a mix of geometric shapes, a socratic seminar or fishbowl approach, and many more. Then you can figure out how technology will enhance, not detract from, the human interactions you are striving to build in your classroom.
Keeping It Real
John Dewey and the Progressives argued that education should be personally meaningful, participatory, and should prepare students to serve in a productive role in a democratic society. That spirit lives on in today’s classrooms when we talk about the instructional strategies of authentic learning, project-based learning, discovery learning, student choice, and more.
Technology has the potential to impact authentic learning in many ways. Teaching an environmental science lesson about biodiversity? Edtech makes it possible for students to take virtual field trips or to share data and resources with others both locally and globally. Having your students learn about how scientific polling works, including the calculation of a margin of error? Edtech makes it easier to develop and distribute an internal survey within the school environment for students to analyze, report results, and demonstrate the underlying mathematical concepts - often from right within your LMS.
The Teaching Before the Teaching
No matter your chosen strategy, don’t roll out the shiny objects right at the top of the lesson - this may derail the class before it even begins. Preparing students for learning through anticipatory activities or similar are still tried and true ways to focus attention and engage the class before putting devices in their hands.
Let’s say you want to pursue a strategy of having students research the reasons why societies experience revolutions and to present their findings to the class. Edtech tools such as presentation software, the use of discussion boards on your learning management system (LMS), and more lend themselves perfectly to this type of strategy. But if you open up the mobile computer lab and pass out devices before going over objectives and expectations, you will lose valuable learning time. Again, use the technology to support and enhance the teaching strategy, not the other way around.
Collaborating for Success
According to the Center for Teaching Innovation at Cornell University, there are many well-known benefits of collaborative learning, including - but not limited to - higher-order thought and related skills, relationship-building and the development of appreciation for a wide range of ideas, and preparation for workplace interactions. The good news is that with the help of educational technology, collaborative learning can be more engaging and productive than ever.
Your district’s learning management system should be set up for both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous collaboration, depending on class goals/objectives and the needs of your students. If the learning standards and lesson objectives lend themselves to a collaborative learning structure, then bring in the technology to facilitate that process.
For example, let’s say one of your goals in an English language arts class is for students to be able to provide substantive, specific peer feedback to one another and then to make appropriate revisions based on that feedback. Instead of the traditional trading of papers and handwritten comments, use your LMS to have students engage in a true two-way conversation about their work, making comments, sharing ideas, responding to each other and editing the product in real time.
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs are all the rage today, and for good reason; they focus on positive behavioral supports instead of a draconian punishment-based approach to behavior change. You should look to take a similarly student-centered and proactive approach to technology in your classroom - the explicit teaching of digital citizenship skills.
In planning your instruction, aided by technology integration, are you deliberately including digital citizenship outcomes, such as those included in the ISTE Standards for Students? For example, if you ask students to explore characterization in Julius Caesar by composing a series of tweets and replies, how can you incorporate the concept of a person’s digital identity? As a team collaborates to create an infographic about the causes of the American Civil War, how will you also teach them to cite their sources in a 21st century environment? What about the fair use and distribution of another website’s intellectual property?
So, whether your overarching instructional strategy is small-group learning, a class role-playing exercise, or an independent study project, among dozens of other possible approaches, take the time to weave in lessons geared specifically toward relevant digital citizenship targets.
Align the Strategy, Enhance with the Tech
It’s time to use educational technology to take your instructional strategies to the next level. Whether through your LMS’s discussion features, social media usage, presentation software, or another tool, the technology should help engage students and make it easier for them to process, organize, and present their learning, not serve as an end in itself.
From the content standards and objectives, select an instructional strategy that will best meet the needs of students in mastering the desired content, concepts, and processes. From there, determine what edtech tools will best serve the strategy. When your focus remains on teaching and learning, with the technology serving that master, you’ll develop instructional strategies that will lead to increased student learning every time.
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