by Terry Heick
The role of technology in learning isn’t entirely clear–or rather, is subjective.
While it clearly is able to provide access to peers, audiences, resources, and data, it also can be awkward, problematic, distracting, performing more strongly as a barrier to understand than anything else. Why this happens also isn’t clear, but there are some common patterns and missteps to look for while designing or evaluating a learning process.
15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology
1. The teacher is choosing the technology.
It’s not always possible, but when you can, let the students choose, and see what happens. Not all of them will be able to. Some need help; so let other students help them.
2. The teacher is choosing the function.
This doesn’t mean you can’t choose the function, but if you students can’t control the technology the use nor its function, this can be problematic: the learning is passive from the beginning.
3. The teacher is determining the process.
To an extent you have to, but don’t overdo it.
4. The technology is distracting.
If the technology is more magical than the project, product, collaboration, process, or content itself, try to muffle the bells and whistles. Or use them to your advantage.
5. The technology isn’t necessary.
You wouldn’t use a ruler to teach expository writing, nor would you use a Wendell Berry essay to teach about the Water Cycle. No need for a Khan Academy account and a fully-personalized and potentially self-directed proficiency chart of mathematical concepts just to show a 3 minute video on the number line.
6. The process is too complex.
Keep it simple. Fewer moving parts = greater precision. And less to go wrong.
7. Students have access to too much.
What materials, models, peer groups, or related content do students actually need? See #6.
8. The teacher is the judge, jury, and executioner.
Get out of the way. You’re (probably) less interesting than the content, experts, and communities (if you’re doing it right).
9. They artificially limiting the scale.
Technology connects everything to everything. Use this to the advantage of the students!
10. They’re not limiting the scale.
However, giving students the keys to the universe with no framework, plan, boundaries or even vague goals is equally problematic.
11. Students access is limited to too little.
The opposite of too board a scale is too little–akin to taking students to the ocean to fish but squaring off a 5 square feet section in the middle of the Pacific to operate.
12. The transition between technology and non-technology is clumsy.
“Okay students, stop searching global databases to identify the most relevant and compelling digital media resources for your project-based learning artifact. Have a seat and let’s all do a KWL chart together so we have something to hang on the wall.”
13. They think forward, not backwards.
Begin with the end in mind. Where do you want to be at the end of the lesson or activity? What sort of evidence does it make sense to accept as proof students “get it”? Start here, and move step-by-step backwards through the learning process. You can choose tech-first, but you have to be careful.
14. Technology is functioning as an end, not a means.
This is similar to #5. Learning technology is flashy.
15. It’s not cloud-based but it needs to be.
Designing a project-based learning unit that could allow student access to peers, assignments, and content and then limiting it to a school server, offline folders, disparate flash drives, or even disconnected social media platforms (one assignment on Edmodo, another piece on G+ Communities, etc.) is the quickest way to turn a 4 week unit into an 8 week unit.
This post has been updated from a 2012 post; 15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology