August 2018: Plan your work, work your plan

Kathy's Katch

There are many technology devices in your classroom — from computers to tablets to VR headsets. No matter what hardware and software your students are using in the classroom, I feel the planning process is most important component of infusing technology meaningfully into teaching and learning.

STEP 1: Sound pedagogy

Take a look the pedagogical models that can help you out both in the planning process and the development of assessments. Some of these include those that allow students to utilize the higher-order thinking skills of Bloom’s Revised and Digital Taxonomies (analyzing, evaluating, and creating), target the transformational levels of SAMR, provide them with more choice as outlined in the TECH model, have them think carefully about the relationship between pedagogy and technology as included in the TPACK model, and cover the important standards proposed in the ISTE Standards for Students. Just pick the one you feel is most meaningful and useful to you and stick to it. If you try to cover too many things, you will be overwhelmed!

My favorite pedagogical model for technology infusion is Jen Robert’s TECH model.

STEP 2: Cognitive skills questions

Next, there are some cognitive skills questions to ask yourself as you begin the search for the perfect apps or tools for students to use for designing, producing, and creating.

Does the app or tool help the learner:

  • Construct designs
  • Generate possibilities
  • Compose ideas
  • Propose hypotheses
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Design products
  • Produce solutions
  • Assemble plans
  • Re-arrange operations

STEP 3: Purpose of the tool/app

When deciding on the use of technology as part of a unit, you should next consider the purpose of the app or online tool.  Is it intended to provide additional curriculum content for the student, or is the goal  for the student to create a product to showcase acquisition of content knowledge? The process of evaluating a site, app or tool is different in each case.

Additional curriculum content

When considering apps/tools/sites to provide additional curriculum content for the student, you will want to think about:

  • Curriculum connection
    • Are the skills reinforced connected to targeted skills/concepts?
  • Authenticity
    • Are skills practiced in an authentic format/problem-based environment?
  • Feedback
    • Is feedback specific and result in improved student performance?
  • Differentiation
    • Does the app/tool offer flexibility to alter settings to meet student needs?
  • User friendliness
    • Can students launch and navigate within the app/tool independently?
  • Student motivation
    • Are students motivated to use the app/tool and select it to use often?
  • Reporting
    • Is assessment/summary data available electronically to the student and teacher?
  • Sound
    • Do the music and sounds in the tool/app add to the educational aspects of the content?
  • Instructions
    • Are the included instructions helpful and at the correct reading level for the student?
  • Support page
    • Does the app’s or tool’s supporting Web page provide additional useful information?
  • Navigation
    • Does the app/tool use a touchscreen effectively throughout its use?
  • Modalities
    • Are multiple versions of instruction, such as text, visuals, and audio, included?

A expanded list and interactive form to help you evaluate curriculum-based apps may be found here for iOS and Android.

Creation process

When considering tools and apps to support the creation process, the list of criteria is different.

Does the app/tool allow students to:

  • Import a project from the computer version of the software
  • Screencast the creation process as they are creating
  • Record a soundtrack with the microphone on the computer/tablet
  • Insert sounds, music, or photos located on the device into the creation
  • Export, email, upload, embed, or network-share the final creation
  • Collaborate in real-time with others to develop the product
  • Utilize a browser-based version of the tool in addition to the app
  • Use touchscreens effectively to draw, develop, type, and manipulate items
  • Access written instructions or tutorials (at the correct reading level) within the app/tool
  • Provide various modalities of instructions, such as written, visual, and oral
  • Visit a supporting Web page which provides additional information

An expanded list and interactive form to help you with evaluating creation apps may be found here for iOS | Android |Online Tools

Step 4: Online resources

When providing students with online sites and resources, there are also a number of items you should think about.

Some of these include —

  • What is the reading level of the sites you are listing?
  • How can you determine the credibility of the author of the page?
  • Is the information free from bias?
  • Is the information current?
  • Are citations included on the page?
  • Do credible sites also link to the page?
  • Are the sites easy to navigate?

You might have students conducting the evaluation of the online resource/research sites, too. Here are forms for students in Elementary | Middle | Secondary to use for guidance as they develop their critical evaluation skills.

Different types of online resources also have differing components to evaluate, in addition to the list above.

Online tours (form for tours evaluation)

  • Is there an option to take a different path during the tour?
  • While taking the tour, is there an option to get back to the beginning?
  • Did the tour include links to additional Web sites to enhance the tour?
  • Is there a place to leave feedback about the tour?
  • Is a virtual reality version of the tour available?
  • Does the online tour have educational value?

Podcasts (form for podcast evaluation)

  • Are the technical qualities (audio, music, transitions) acceptable in the podcast?
  • Is a written transcript of the podcast included?
  • Are the speaker(s) in the podcast engaging?
  • Is it obvious how to add the podcast to an aggregator like iTunes?
  • If the podcast is an enhanced podcast, does the use of visuals enhance the podcast?
  • Does the content of the podcast have educational value?

Online  videos (form for video evaluation)

  • Does the video seem to be well-planned and organized?
  • Do the camera shots in the video vary to make it more interesting to watch?
  • If the video includes special effects or music, do they add to the video content?
  • Is the vocabulary used by the speaker(s) in the video appropriate for the viewer?
  • Is there a transcript of the video included?
  • Does the content of the video have educational value?

Online digital story (form for digital story evaluation)

  • Is the topic of the story explained or inferred during the story?
  • After watching the story, is the purpose of the creation of the story clear?
  • Is the information in the story presented in an organized and logical manner?
  • If music is included in the story, do it improve the story?
  • Does the content of the story have educational value?

You may want to offer students a toolbox of apps/tools they can use or allow them free choice of the way they demonstrate the content they are learning. There are many single-use tools/apps that can be mashed up to create a product and there are also many tools/apps that include many ways to create (like Padlet) or are part of an integrated suite of tools (like the Adobe Spark toolset).

What process do you use to plan effective technology use in the classroom? How you evaluate the tools/apps? Do you allow students free choice? Post your thoughts in the comments!

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