Reflections on using tech in lesson planning

Technology tool


I recently shared this image on Twitter.  It was presented by Eric Sheninger in his keynote at Connect 2015.  It’s not a new image by any means, but lately I’ve been far more reflective and perhaps cynical about using tech for tech’s sake.

Twitter wasn’t probably the best tool  to share my thinking on this.  What I was thinking when I shared the image was about my early days of technology integration/enactment.  When I learned about an “exciting,” “new,” tool, I would immediately try to bring it in my class or my co-teaching–I basically built my lesson around it.

The classic example was when I first learned about TodaysMeet a few years ago.  I loved that tool and thought it would bring so much opportunity for student voice and input into the classroom.  The first time I used it was a disaster from the beginning.  What I wanted, was students to infer meaning from an image and delve deeply into the issue of homelessness and our stereotypes around the issue.  My purpose was to elicit conversation and ensure that every student made a contribution.

What did I do?  I had students look a the image, post an idea to TodaysMeet, view someone else’s comment and comment on that.  Yes, I had a fancy transcript of the “conversation” and the students enjoyed using the tool because they had never used it before, but the technology distracted me and the students from any meaningful interaction.  Students really never delved further than their 140 characters would allow.  There was no real place in Todays Meet to pull all of the terms together as the comments fill in sequentially.  The focus became less on the conversation and more on what they were going to write using the tool within the confines of the character limit.  At the end of it, I realized that the lesson would have been far more powerful if I had chosen not to use that tech tool at all or if I had just used it as a Minds On at the beginning of the lesson to capture our initial ideas.

And that might be the risk of using a tool as a starting point.  What if I used this experience as a reason NOT to allow for the opportunity to integrate technology because it didn’t really help me to meet my learning goals ?

At the same time…

There were several students who never spoke in class the whole year who expressed an opinion on that day. So if I did allow this experience to jade my perspective, would I be limiting the transformational possibilities that can also come from using technology (especially for those students who require alternative ways to demonstrate their learning)?

I’ve since used Today’s Meet thoughtfully and effectively in my planning.  

But for that group of students on that particular day, I had allowed a shiny new tool to take away from rich conversations and deep learning.

So,  these are the questions that now guide my thinking:  What do I want my students to know, understand, and be able to do?  What tools might help me to help my students to get there?

2 thoughts on “Reflections on using tech in lesson planning

  1. Diana Santos

    You are so right. It is easy to get caught up in a fun new tool. As teachers we see so many possibilities. But we need to slow down think about our learning goals, and think creatively of how this tools will make our lesson different… add-ons to current lessons won’t usually have the effect we were initially so excited about.

    1. Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Di. I know that we have had many a face to face conversation about this topic! I don’t know that we can truly transform learning opportunities for our students if we don’t pause to think about how we can not just make a lesson different, but better. Cheers.


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