When deciding to implement a technology tool in an educational setting, the value of the tool for helping students reach a goal, or producing a product, must be considered. Technology tools can be implemented effectively when used to help move students from LOTS (low order thinking skills) to HOTS (high order thinking skills) according to Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, 2016). All technology can be effective in the hands of a skilled or creative teacher. However, each technology is accompanied by very real concerns and teachers must know their population and decide how or when technology will be used.
Social media is one of the most intimidating technology tools to employ with an adolescent population. It may help to create interest and excitement, but the potential for distraction and privacy concerns make delving into this technology murky waters. Some students respond positively to the idea of creating their own material and sharing it, as well as reading or viewing the work of others and responding or commenting. Since anything that creates interest can also result in increased involvement and likely increased performance by students, social media may be a viable option. Blogs and posting videos not only help teachers check for understanding, but allow students to move higher in Bloom’s Taxonomy by providing opportunities for analysis and evaluation when they view and respond to the work of others. Sometimes, the creation of these products is the end goal allowing students to reach the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy (creating). Using social media in schools provides students practice using this technology in an appropriate and effective manner (Edudemic Staff, 2015). With a supportive school administration and parent population, social media can help bridge gaps between teacher and students, students and peers, and school and home. Additionally, when using social media, students may take their work more seriously if they know that peers, parents or the general population can read or watch it (Edudemic Staff, 2015).
Social media can also be used for education as well as to educate. Allowing educators to easily share ideas is impacting education, enabling teachers to read about many different approaches to a topic. This saves countless hours of searching or prevents mistakes by reading about other teachers’ experiences implementing a lesson or activity. It is difficult to find fault with this use of social media for education.
Technology tools can also quickly survey populations for educational purposes. Surveys can provide information about a population including what motivates them and what is important to them. They can solicit opinions, comments, or feedback (Wyse, 2012). Classroom uses may include determining how students feel about certain types of learning, how they feel about their learning progression and numerous other topics. A survey can also generate discussion (Wyse, 2012). Students can be asked an opinion question and then discuss or search for support for their opinion or the opposing view. They may also be used to elicit responses from the broader community. Teachers may use surveys to make decisions about their teaching based on feedback from their students rather than just what they perceive their students want or need (Wyse, 2012). This tool can also help teachers monitor students’ ideas, thoughts or opinions over time (Wyse, 2012). For example, a teacher might survey a class at various intervals regarding their opinion about various religions or cultures in a social studies course to see if lessons are impacting students’ world view. A science teacher may survey students about their recycling and energy use habits to determine if lessons are impacting students’ behaviors in this area. Like social media, the application of a survey determines whether it is used for education or to educate and also determines if it requires LOTS or HOTS. Survey data can be analyzed and evaluated by students, making it an effective method for increasing thinking skill level.
Real-time data can engage and motivate students by connecting them to the world outside the classroom. Students can use primary source data either collected themselves or data collected by people or instruments located off campus (possibly on the other side of the world!). This allows students to use data collected anywhere from the deep sea to outer space. This type of data can be useful and engaging for students from preschool through postsecondary education. Again, the value of this data, like the value of surveys and social media, lies in how it is used. Tasks can be simple data collection requiring only LOTS or they may require engineering or innovation, both HOTS.
My experience using the above mentioned technology tools (as well as video recording and posting and mapping) has been very positive. Within the past few years, technology tools have advanced in design and interface to the point where little effort and investment is required to become a competent user of most tools. Access to these tools has also become ubiquitous in most cases. One technology tool that seems to be limited for teachers operating in a small budget is mapping tools. Many quality tools exist including, but not limited to, Gliffy, Lucidchart, and MindMeister but they usually require a paid subscription which is not always an option for public school teachers. Some of these offer either a free trial or a free membership with strict limits. One tool that is free but not quite as user friendly, and with fewer customization options than the others, is MindMup. It does, however, offer sharing for collaborative work which is a bonus.
I have not spent much time using social media with my own students and would love to know how other teachers make this technology work for them beyond using it as a public relations tool. I understand it can be valuable for connecting the broader community to schools, but have yet to see how tools such as Twitter or Instagram can be implemented for increasing the thinking skill level (re: Bloom’s taxonomy) of students.
Survey technology may be useful in the secondary classroom but questions would have to be very carefully worded and used only in conjunction with other data such as assessment data. Depending on the culture of a school, students may respond according to what is expected by peers (even if the survey is anonymous) in order to elicit a particular response from their teacher, peers or both. The assumption that participants are being perfectly honest cannot always be made, unfortunately. I would hesitate to use a survey to ask about class activities or lessons because students sometimes view these through the lens of whether or not it is entertaining rather than if it is valuable or necessary.
In conclusion, it is undoubtedly important for teachers in the 21st century to be aware of all the tools available to help engage students, learn about their students, learn from their students, and help their students learn and perform higher order thinking skills. However, these tools alone cannot bring teaching and learning to the next level. Technology tools are only as good as the teacher integrating them into the lessons. Teachers must be encouraged to experiment with different technology tools, using them in different ways to increase learning for all students.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. (2016). Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy
Edumedia Staff. (2015, January 12). How to Use Social Media as a Learning Tool. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://www.edudemic.com/how-to-use-social-media-as-a-learning-tool-in-the-classroom/
Wyse, S. E. (2012, June 29). 4 Main Reasons to Conduct Surveys. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://www.snapsurveys.com/blog/4-main-reasons-conduct-surveys/