How and Why We Use Technology in the Classroom

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

With school getting ready to start back in many places, it seems like a good time to review how and why you use technology in the classroom. Educators in the 21st century work with technology in one form or another every day. Most are comfortable with some but not all types of technology.

Dian Schaffhauser, in THE Journal, reported on a national survey given to “teachers, administrators and tech leaders to tell us how technology energizes their classrooms.” Her article, “5 Essential Multimedia Skills Every Educator Must Master,” addresses the top five skills that were identified by educators. Besides “Troubleshooting Your Own Tech” and “Embracing Curiosity,” using videos and podcasts for the flipped classroom was one of the “instructional tools [that] could increase student interest and participation in class.”

Another skill that she focused on was knowing how to use the equipment in your classroom. She quotes Cameron Mount, an English instructor at Brookdale Community College (NJ): “Just about everything available in the room to use should be used. Variation in modes of instruction is not just a good idea; it’s practically compulsory in the day of the [individualized education program] and multimodal learning.”

The final skill addressed was how to use presentation software effectively. Although tools such as PowerPoint have been around a long time, many presenters still do not use them effectively. You have probably been victim to “death by PowerPoint” on various occasions. However, just transferring bad slides over to Prezi isn’t going to help.

Presentations need to be planned carefully, just as one would any other teaching tool and strategy. I confess, I was dismayed that effective presentations is still such an issue that this one made the top five. However, having sat through a presentation recently in which the presenter mumbled his way through the copious text on his slides, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

What about you? How do you use technology effectively? Where do you need to make some improvements?

11 Responses

  1. My problem is being skilled in presentations and knowledge that the schools I am trying to serve, don’t have time for. What I am told is that testing is such a pressing problem that they turn down even free resources with online support. I am told that further in poor schools, the computers now are being co-opted for practicing use of the computer in testing so that half of the year the working computers are not available to teach with. So no NASA, ESRI , National Geographic.

    • Bonnie,

      Sounds like a horror story, but it’s all too real. A decade ago, it was the same. Can you believe it? “We have this really neat computer room, but it’s booked solid for the math prep software.” “I had to drop another science lab so we’d have time for test prep.”

      I’m with Bob Dylan: “When will they ever learn?”

  2. Learning to present is a very important aspect of communication.

    We have seen English classes turn into ELA classes. They should turn into communications classes. Today, anyone can make a YouTube video, but most are done poorly. You can make web pages. You can even make remarkable music with technology tools.

    Traditional English teachers will most likely retreat to traditional English class lessons when confronted with all of the new technology. It’s really not all that difficult. Elementary school students are doing it, after all.

    Take one step at a time, and enlist your students as aides.

    When I talk to people about what you should learn in school, communication skills rank at the top of the list. If you cannot understand the communications of others and cannot clearly communicate your own ideas, you are adrift in the new world without a paddle. It does not matter what other knowledge or skill you possess if you cannot explain what you have learned using your communication skills.

    Second on my list is thinking. If you can think clearly, think creatively, and think critically, then you have something worth communicating about every now and then. You might be a great communicator and have nothing to say. That would be sad indeed.

    Everything else is subordinated to communicating and thinking in my mind. If you teach, please keep these two skills in mind as you prepare for each class. How have you advanced your students’ communicating and thinking skills?

  3. How and Why We Use Technology in the Classroom:
    We really just wanted to know what you needed to know to live on the moon.We were thinking food, shelter, clothing, recreation, contacting home, cultural notes,
    personalization of the “space” we would live in, and transportation, planning the parts of the city.

    We learned pixellation, GIS, the geography of the moon and the earth in space,
    some astrophysics, and about systems. The systems for survival on the moon.

    * We read a lot of science fiction to think about these things and we viewed NASA concept movies on the subjects we were thinking about to help us solve problems.

    When I first used technology in the classroom it was at my peril. This month one of the projects I worked on , “Seeds in Space” has come true. Students and I used technology to learn about ways that astronauts would live in space and of course eating,nutrition, and health were a big part of this.We grew tomatoes, basil , and raised some little micrograms that mature easily in a couple of weeks.The technology introduced us to real world problems and solutions. One of my students wanted to know how would he be able to have hamburgers in space.
    Interestingly enough most of my students had never had a lot of salads. We learned about parsley , sage , rosemary and thyme and basil.
    We grew different kinds of basil. Short term tomatoes.We raised tilapia ( which I had never eaten ). There was a program called Moonbase America.
    I had a growing chamber for hydroponics, and a tank for the fish and some goo for the microgreens, and we practiced Bottle biology.
    A parent from California thought we were growing illegal substances. Not.

    The custodian was the only person who objected to Bottle Biology.
    At first I had 60 empty beverage bottles in my closet.I think he thought they would attract bugs.
    We built structural models of the habitat. AIA helped us to find the best structures. We got to build our Moonbase and exhibit it in a fancy building in DC ( I don’t remember the name of it) We were 6th Graders and we were competing with high school people. ( I was a Christa McAuliffe Educator) and so I was able to enter my students into the study.Nov 1992
    The MOONBASE AMERICA project involved teachers and 96 secondary school students who participated in the project by helping to build MOONBASE,

    We took a space science course, created a communications network, and completing a 7-day simulation in a MOONBASE structure.
    Teacher and student outcomes were evaluated.

    We had NASA resources like this.

    They took the simulation into a game.
    NASA has once again landed on the lunar surface with the goal of colonization, research, and further exploration. Shortly after the return to the Moon, NASA has established a small outpost on the south pole of the moon called Moonbase Alpha. Utilizing solar energy and regolith processing, the moonbase has become self-sufficient and plans for further expansion are underway.
    This was awesome to do: Boys and Girls
    In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research. Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement. With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement.
    Team coordination along with the proper use and allocation of your available resources (player controlled robots, rovers, repair tools, etc.) are key to your overall success. There are several ways in which you can successfully restore the life support system of the lunar base, but since you are scored on the time spent to complete the task, you have to work effectively as a team, learn from decisions made in previous gaming sessions, and make intelligence decisions in order to top the leaderboards.
    Key features:
    Team up with your friends…
    The fate of a lunar colony rests on the shoulders of you and your team. Communicate and coordinate efforts with up to six players (LAN and internet) by using voice over communication.
    Utilize the latest in NASA technology…
    A fully functional rover that utilizes lunar physics is available to transport both players and supplies to all reaches of the lunar colony. You can build and pilot your own repair robot in order to fix crucial systems before time runs out.
    Immerse yourself in an awe-inspiring lunar environment…
    Take your first steps on the moon’s surface in a truly accurate lunar moonscape that is unmatched in any other application.
    Compete with your friends to reach the top of the leaderboards…
    Do you have what takes it to be number one? When you win, your score will automatically be posted to the leaderboards for everyone to see.
    A unique experience each time..
    With multiple paths for game success, you’ll need to learn to work effectively as a team, learn from decisions made in previous gaming sessions, and make intelligent decisions in order to top the leaderboards.
    Tailor your game to fit your gameplay style…
    Do you want to play with two players or six? With multiple game maps you can select the game environment that best suits your team’s needs.
    Education became something real and a vision to the future. No one had all of the real answers at first. Math became so different as well as philosophical things to think about.
    Of course we had access to other resources on the NASA educational sites and we sent for and saw a real Astronaut suit.
    Our final class was at the White House. When the president started to speak and did not understand the lag in time we all looked at each other. We had talked to an astronaut in space so we understood the time difference.
    Here was the announcement he made for the future.
    We used technology to touch the future and some of the things we learn are just coming true for the general public to understand.

    Bonnie Bracey Sutton
    230 G Street , SW
    Washington, DC 20024

    • You may be interested to learn that you can grow plants “on the Moon” right in your classroom. You have to be handy with equipment, though.

      You have to have a slowly rotating platform on which to place the plants. You must have the means to tip the platform to a predetermined angle. For zero gravity, that angle is 90°. For the Moon, it’s about 81°. For Mars, it’s about 68°. At 45°, you’ll have 71% of Earth’s gravity.

      Of course, you have to figure out how to keep the dirt in and how to water the plants. :)

  4. I had a hydrophonic growing chamber that was a part of the Moonbse America resources. You can see it in the video at the front part of the story.
    A parent objected to the use of it, saying that people grew weed with it in CA.

    • That is the worst possible logic. We should not use fertilizer because someone made a bomb out of it. We should not cook with fire because some use it for arson. Don’t use hammers because they have been used as weapons to kill. And so it goes.

      Sometimes, parents can be real idiots.

  5. Often, in the DC area there were groups of business people who were very interested in schools doing new technology work. The problem was that most of my work and funding came from grants. The good news was that I was able to learn to write grants for this work. Students learned to work to solve problems, and to have objectives in mind as they worked.

  6. It occurs to me that while we are quoting history and errors and problems, there is this. I had an AHA moment when I first saw this presented.

  7. You should read about aeroponics, an even more efficient growing system than hydroponics. On Mars, water will be at a premium, and both soil and aeroponics use less of it than hydroponics.

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