When integrating new technology into your teaching, first consider your own teaching style. A major distinction in the literature on teaching styles is an emphasis on teacher-centered instruction versus learning-centered instruction.
There are a variety of instruments that can help you assess your teaching style such as the Grasha-Reichmann teaching style inventory. This instrument will characterize your teaching style with respect to five dimensions including facilitator, formal authority, expert, personal model, and delegator. For example, an instructor who has a stronger preference towards “personal model” is one who views their role primarily as a coach. One of the most important functions of a coach is to provide feedback, thus technologies that enable one to provide feedback may be more valuable to instructors who view themselves in this light.
In contrast, an isntructor who views their role as more of delegator may find technological methods (e.g., webquests) that allow them to structure learning experiences for their students; see Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks (2000) for additional information about how you can align your teaching style and use of technology).1
Consider Technology's Purpose
Instructors must be aware of how technology can support evidence-based pedagogical practices. Neiss summarized this challenge: “For technology to become an integral component or tool for learning… [instructors] must also develop an overarching conception of their subject matter with respect to technology and what it means to teach with technology."2
When deciding to integrate technology into a class session, ask yourself:
- What is your end goal (read more about defining learning goals and objectives)?
- What type of technology could help the students achieve that goal?
For example, rather than asking how you could incorporate an online discussion board into your course and then building your instruction on that, start at the end goal. Ask, “How can I provide students more opportunities to share their knowledge and interact with their peers?” Then you can evaluate different technologies (e.g., discussion boards or wikis) for that purpose. By using this process, technology will support, rather than drive, instruction.
There are a variety of reasons for integrating technology into the classroom, some of which include:
- To increase communication outside the classroom
- To deliver information
- To increase active learning and knowledge application
- To provide immediate feedback
The strategies section of this module will identify technological tools that you can use in your teaching for these purposes.
Gauge Student Technology Skills
Ensure that your students have the opportunity to access information in your class and complete assignments. To do so, survey your students to determine their comfort with using technology. Your technology survey should include:
- Information about their experience and comfort using technology
- Access to technology
- Communication preferences
- Access and use of mobile devices
There are a variety of surveys that you can use to assess your students’ comfort with technology (see Example 1; Example 2; Example 3). These tools will be a good starting point for gathering information about your students’ technological skills. You should adapt and update surveys to fit your needs for learning tools and technology continue to change. For example, if you plan to use Canvas Discussion Board in your class, you may want to assess your students’ familiarity with that tool. You will also want to provide instruction on how to use tools if your students are unfamiliar with them. You may provide this instruction in your class, create guides or tutorials, or direct students to tutorials if you plan to have them use technology outside of your classroom.
(1) Grasha, A., & Yangarber-Hicks, N. (2000). Integrating teaching styles and learning styles with instructional technology. College Teaching, 48(1), 2-10.
(2) Niess, M.L. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach science and mathematics with technology: Developing a technology pedagogical content knowledge. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(5), 509-523.