teaching with technology
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Naturalizing Digital Immigrants: The Power of Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
This short, easy-to-read book may inspire academic administrators to set up one-on-one relationships between teachers with the goal of increasing effective technology use within classroom settings.
The book may not translate directly to those teaching in theological education because it is drawn from the authors’ experiences in K-12 teacher education graduate programs. Its focus is on technology integration in elementary, and secondary contexts and teacher education, even though marketing copy on the back cover might indicate otherwise. Frequent clichés and repetitive text are also distracting.
A major conceptual problem in this book is the use of the idea of “digital immigrants.” In the first chapter, Alaniz and Wilson describe current students who have grown up with the Internet as “digital natives.” Their parents’ generation, who did not grow up with the Internet, is one of “digital immigrants.” This generational understanding of technology adoption does not advance the aims of the book. Technology integration in the classroom requires skill in both technology and pedagogy. Generational age is not a good indicator for teachers’ capabilities in these areas. In the last chapter, the authors attempt to nuance the generational understanding, but it is too little, too late.
Despite these problems, the book presents an appealing method of collegial coaching for improved technology integration in teaching. Alaniz and Wilson ground their methodology in education research on the value of collaboration and conclude the book with testimonial evidence of the effectiveness of collegial coaching. The heart of the book is a recipe for setting up a coaching program, supplemented by brief examples from graduate students who implemented programs in primary and secondary contexts. The steps for setting up this sort of program seem well-considered and backed by practical experience. While Alaniz and Wilson might have devoted more attention to intercultural issues in coaching relationships, they offer many helpful suggestions for considerations in selecting participants and structuring relationships.
Shifting from one-size-fits-all workshop sessions on technology to more focused coaching on technology integration is a strategy that may benefit all levels of education, not just the primary and secondary levels. Theological educators could have ongoing structured peer relationships that focus on integrating technology and educational resources into a classroom setting. Educational technologists and librarians in theological settings might utilize principles of coaching to help faculty utilize their resources in the classroom. It would be interesting to see this recipe for collegial coaching adapted to a theological education context, with greater sensitivity to intercultural dynamics in the academy and more nuance about generational facility with technology.
With noted cautions, this book is recommended for educators, particularly educational technologists, librarians, and deans, who might use insights from a peer coaching model to help faculty better use technology.
Motivating Teaching in Higher Education with Technology
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2016
Motivating Teaching in Higher Education with Technology is a useful manual for both beginning and experienced instructors teaching at the post-secondary level. Jay Wilson is the head of Curriculum Studies Department at the University of Saskatchewan. He has extensive practical experience in the areas of technology with specific application to teaching and instructions. Edwin Ralph is a professor with the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan with mentorship in education expertise. As indicated in the title, this book is about “motivating teaching.” The authors contend that technology serves a supportive role for teaching and learning. For them, “technology, per se, will not improve poor teaching” and “incorporating technology will not change the quality of your content” (103). Beginning with the theme of motivational teaching principles, learning climate and management, and the distinction between teacher- and learner-centered pedagogies, the book then unfolds what this could mean, using specific applications of technology to teaching in subsequent chapters.
The authors claim that technology can enhance the quality of teaching significantly when it is being used with thoughtful design and intention. Major benefits of using technology include: making course materials more accessible and available for review (especially for English as second language students), creating frequent opportunities for interaction beyond classroom hours, and encouraging active, participatory learning. As for online courses offerings, technology allows the possibility of bringing in a diverse student body to enrich the learning experience.
The authors emphasize the importance of adequate preparation for any kind of teaching but even more so when teaching with technology. Many instructors tend to focus on the preparation of content and may neglect to consider the administrative side of teaching. This book draws the readers’ attention to the importance of good learning “management” in teaching. Attention to course details such as a clearly laid out rubric of grading criteria, class policies, and behavioral expectations for face-to-face and online discussions all contribute to the success of building a positive learning environment.
Further strengthening this book are the step-by-step practical suggestions it provides for putting together learning modules, constructing concept maps, designing learning activities, developing questions for student reflection, and crafting effective assessment methods. “Instructors must carefully orchestrate the integration of technologies with appropriate methods and strategies at key junctures to maximize learner motivation” (100). Having taught both hybrid and online courses for over eight years, I find the suggestions insightful and refreshing.
Since the book is designed to be a manual, its writing style is concise and does not contain as many real life examples as readers may like to see. Readers will need to do much integration between the principles articulated and application to actual situations in their own teaching contexts.
The day before the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting, I went to THATCamp. THAT stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp,” and it’s an unconference, which is nothing like an unhappy birthday except that there was tea. Participants create the content and facilitate the conversations at THATCamp. ...
Shortly after the verdicts in the Ferguson and Staten Island police beating cases led to protests via social media and demonstrations across the country, I found myself involved in two conversations. The first occurred with a car mechanic in Saratoga Springs, the small rural New York community where I work. ...
Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology
Date Reviewed: May 29, 2017
Do students learn as well online as they do in the face-to-face classroom? Miller argues not only that they can, if the instruction is well-designed, but also that online tools and resources are uniquely able to deliver instructional experiences that take advantage of the innate properties of human learning. “[W]hat technology allows us to do,” she claims, “is amplify and expand the repertoire of techniques that effective teachers use to elicit the attention, effort, and engagement that are the basis for learning” (xii).
Miller realizes that many faculty do not share her positive view of technology in instruction, however. She opens her book by targeting that resistance with well-reasoned and supported counterarguments: in chapter 1, she counters the fear that teaching with technology is a faddish, passing phenomenon with a recounting of its potential lasting value to both administrators and instructors; in chapter 2, she presents evidence for the effectiveness of online learning and against typical worries about its effects on students; and in chapter 3, she debunks several major myths about learners and computing that have made instructors skeptical or misdirected their efforts.
Having assuaged common concerns about instructional technology, Miller moves on in chapters 4 through 8 to discuss current psychological theory on the functioning of attention, memory, reasoning, the effect of multimedia elements on learning and motivation, paired in each case with practical strategies to help online instruction optimize these elements. Her evidence is compelling even as it is presented at an accessible level for an audience with little to no background in psychology. Finally, in chapter 9, she presents possibly the most valuable portion of the entire work: a demonstration of all of her principles in practice, in the form of a sample design process and syllabus annotated to show their use of cognitive best practices.
The value of Miller’s overall guidance is only slightly undermined by its fuzzy definition of learning for these purposes. Even as she describes how technology can impact learning, learning itself seems to be equated variously with retention, course completion, grades, and reasoning at different points in the text. In all fairness, each of these measures may well suffice at times for the instructor of a large introductory psychology class, which is the primary use case Miller discusses in this book; and to her credit, she does acknowledge the limitations of each of these as measures of student learning, and also explicitly notes the need for learning experiences that foster deep critical thought, and that engage students at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Nonetheless, a more intentional definition of what is meant by learning would do a great deal to strengthen her argument that online resources can support it.
Despite this limitation, however, this book is a useful, readable guide to an area of instruction whose study is still in its early stages, unusually and gratefully practical even while firmly grounded in theory. It provides a valuable reframing of, and supplement to, the core principles of instructional design, and I expect it to inform my online and even face-to-face instructional practice for some time to come. I would recommend it for any academic library and for the personal collection of any instructor teaching, or considering teaching, in an online or blended environment.