There are so many Tech tools for educators on the market. It can be easy to feel like every single thing is a “must have” and feel like your students will fall behind without access to the latest and greatest tools. The obstacle for many teachers is not the availability of tools, but it is deciding which of these tools they should bring into their classroom.
But is it a big deal which choices we make when it comes to classroom tech? Yes! Schools can often be on a tight budget, so spending money on something that turns out to be the wrong choice can set us back and can prevent us from being able to bring in the tools that are right for our classroom. How do we go about vetting the tools we bring into our classrooms so we can make sure we are making the right choice?
1) What’s the “why”?
The most important thing to consider is: why are you bringing this tool in? Is it replacing outdated tech? Does this tool allow students to do something they had not been able to do before? If the tech tool only serves a simple purpose that could be fulfilled just as easily as using a non-tech solution, it is not the most useful tool for your class (or your budget)! Using tech just as a worksheet replacement is not the best use of classroom time when the task could be just as easily done with pen and paper.
On the other hand, if you find a tool that serves a very unique (and useful) purpose for your classroom, it is likely quality tech!
2) Student Engagement and Success
As teachers, we must always keep our own students in mind when looking to buy new tech tools. There are many cool gadgets out there that may be great for a certain age group, or great for home use, but we need to make sure that our tools will provide value to your students. We don’t want tech toys to be mistaken for tech tools! While techy toys are super awesome and may be good for home use, they may not be a good fit for a classroom of older students ready for higher-level tech skills. Just because something isn’t right for your classroom doesn’t mean it’s a bad product, it just means it isn’t right for your class.
For a tool to be engaging, it must be interactive. Doing a math worksheet online is no better (and certainly not more engaging) than doing it on paper. However, using gamification could make math extremely engaging and be more effective than just a sheet of paper! Or, online learning, for example, can mean that students who are normally too shy to raise their hands in class can participate more fully through online discussions. This means using an online learning platform could close some student gaps and increase engagement. A tool that increases engagement for students is much more useful than a tech toy that’s just meant for fun!
Is this tool giving your students real-world skills? Again, tech toys are loads of fun, but a tech tool should give students higher level skills needed in today’s tech-filled world. Improving coding skills, typing skills, and creative thinking skills are useful for students and will help them in the real world. While tools should be interesting and fun, they should not just be toys! Tech tools need to be applicable to our students in the real world.
Another note on applicability: tech-tools ideally will apply to different subject areas. Does your tool only serve one single purpose? If so, that’s ok, but make sure that it serves a purpose your class needs! Or, better yet, get tech that can serve a few different purposes! For example, 3D design and 3D printing can teach kids about both engineering and art (and more!). Which means that a durable 3D printer can be a quality tech tool to bring into your school!
So teachers, do your homework when bringing new tools into the classroom! When used with intention, technology can be an excellent teaching tool. Educational tech tools will increase student success and engagement and will add so much value to your classroom if they’re used right!