The exponential growth of available technology to the average person in the past years has brought forth the issue of integrating technology into our classrooms. Hundreds of blogs and websites exist about how to effectively use technology with students, what Apps are good to use in what subjects and how to integrate iPads into the classroom. However, it is important that we don’t lose our focus as educators and ignore the fact that technology is here to assist our instruction, not to substitute it. Integrating technology into our classrooms is not an objective in and of itself. Instead, it is here to assist us in achieving with our instructional objectives, hopefully making class more engaging along the way.
Thanks to technology, we can now teach the same things in a more engaging and interactive manner. However, this does not occur automatically when we put laptops or iPads in our students hands. We as teachers need to be able to identify when it is beneficial to integrate technology and when we do, to know what tools to use in each circumstance. Technology, therefore, is a helpful tool that assists us in teaching if we know how to properly use it according to our instructional objectives.
Instructional objectives are useful for students, instructors and instructional design (Shuman, 1996) since they clarify what is expected of students, gives instructors a way to measure outcomes and allows for modification of teaching methods according to results. In short, an objective will outline who will do the task, what needs to be done, and under what conditions (Shuman, 1996). Important aspects of instructional objectives are that they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time specific (Wilburn, PDF).
Effective ways of integrating technology to assist with instructional objectives will provide an added value to when the lesson is being taught without technology. For example, when starting a unit the teacher might ask the students to use a KWL (Wilburn, PDF) analysis meaning they will be asked to list what they know about the subject being taught, what they want to know/learn and finally what they have already learned in the past. Using technology with this activity can be extremely beneficial to the students and teacher. One way to do it is using mind map software such as Inspiration or MindX to allow students to produce a mindmap of the KWL model (students can use pictures as well as text to make their personal goals more personal). Using the technology allows students to engage creatively in their thought process by putting it on a technological tool. Using technology here also becomes useful when we can save progress and share final results, keeping the document intact for evaluation after the unit has been covered.
Another example of integrating technology to assist the instructional objectives is when a teacher uses a blog in the classroom. For example, if students are learning about the business cycle and an instructional objective is that the students are able to name its four distinct points and identify them in case studies, the teacher can post a case study in her blog where the students are able to discuss what point they believe the economy is in at that point. The teacher can post other relevant examples on the blog for students to look at if they need more help or want to learn further material. The discussion forum in a teacher’s blog can be a great tool to communicate and collaborate with peers to identify the answer to a certain question. The discussion the students will have in the blog and the examples provided with the teacher will help achieve the learning objectives since they will increase student capacity to identify the different points in the business cycle and also allow them to reason through and identify these points in a specific case study.
Wilburn, Sharon T.; Wilburn, Kenneth T. Developing Measurable Program Goals and Objectives [PDF Document]. Retrieved from: http://www.fldoe.org/aala/pdf/smart.pdf.