Innovative Technology, Effective Teaching

Innovative Technology, Effective Teaching

Matthew Russell, Faculty Innovation Center

Technology determines many of the ways instructors and students work together. With instructors creating PowerPoint or Keynote presentations to facilitate lectures, employing email to communicate with students, or using Canvas to host online discussions, almost every “class” at UT is already taking place in a blended environment. Students coming to UT increasingly expect both an intuitive and sophisticated use of technology across the courses they take.

 However available technologies should never determine effective teaching; rather, technology should be employed to enhance excellent instruction.

During his presentation, Dr. Russell discussed several tools and techniques that can be employed in a variety of courses and across disciplines. As a set of guiding principles for effective technology implementation and use, he suggested the following:

  • Focus on holistic approaches and not only on how technology can help your class but also how it can help students connect with the topic more.
  • Build on the strengths you already have in your class and move away from thinking of technology as filling the gap.
  • Participate in communities exploring the use of technologies for a purpose that interests you.
  • Contribute to the development of technology (i.e. authoring or editing e-textbooks). Create digital tools and artifacts for broader use.

Q&A discussion on the below topics followed the presentation

It can be difficult to know exactly where to begin when researching a new tool. The main consideration to remember is what tool will make your topic more dynamic and also present your learning objective in the best way. If you start with the right tool, students will learn the topic in a more intuitive way.

Remember that adding technology to a class will take more time than originally thought. Faculty have to carve out time to get used to the tool themselves as well as add additional time to the syllabus for students to get used to the tool.

The most effective use of technology is preparing for it: plan for the launch of the tool at least a semester in advance.

It's easy to think of easier ways to do the tasks we already do on a regular basis. The real trick is thinking of using technology for new tasks. It's not simply about using technology for the sake of progress or doing things better. It comes down to finding tools that accomplish your assessment needs in a more creative or more easily understood way.

Overall, we are deeply invested in helping instructors understand and make sense of an ever-expanding landscape of available learning technologies. During consultations, Dr. Russell and others in FIC will work to find an easy, intuitive tool to use for a small assignment, get feedback from students, and then decide whether or not to proceed with using the tool. It's best practice to test the tool in the classroom on a small assignment and not replace the final essay or something else large on the first run.

Using technology wisely and intentionally in classroom environments can open a rich array of possibilities for more engaging teaching and more effective learning.

Technologies that expand the classroom, allowing students to guide or enhance their own learning in online environments, reflect on experiential learning opportunities or connect with outside experts, contribute to a dynamic experience for instructors and students alike.

Contact Dr. Russell for individual consultations.