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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
April 17, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Ten Ways to Enhance Teaching Through Technology

(reprinted with permission from Bob Godwin-Jones, Virginia Commonwealth University)

1. Think pedagogy first, technology second.
This seems obvious, but it's easy to be carried off by gee-whiz techno-gadgetry and lose sight of what actually helps students learn. It's good to focus attention first on strategies which you know are ones that help students learn, and then see how technology might help carry them out.

2. Don't do things through technology that are better done face-to-face.
Technology can't keep the promise of being all things to all people in all contexts. Nothing can compete in effectiveness with an engaging and committed human instructor, no matter how snazzy or interactive the technology. People care - machines don't.

3. Do use technology to "think out of the box".
It's helpful to think about techniques and/or resources you've always wanted to bring into your teaching and which new technologies will now allow you to implement. But technology may serve as well to expand pedagogical models. New technologies may provide tools for unanticipated approaches and paradigms.

4. Think learner-driven, not teacher-oriented.
It's unsettling to give up control, but we've learned that a student-centred learning environment is more effective. A traditional lecture digitized as a "talking-head" video stream is even less compelling than its real-life counterpart. Learner-centredness means especially taking advantage of the collaborative possibilities of computer networks.

5. Use technology that's within reach of all students and provides options.
Whiz-bang programs won't help students learn if they can't get to them. Sound for example, can add a whole new dimension to learning programs, but do the labs your students use have sound support? Multiple pathways through learning materials can accommodate students with a variety of learning styles and are sometimes easier to enable through technology than in the classroom.

6. Choose approaches that promote active learning.
Computers can automate repetitive and predictable tasks such a drill and practice, but they can also be used to guide self-discovery. If students have a hand in the learning process, it makes them into engaged partners, rather than passive observers. Giving students some control over feedback and delivery options in drill and practice modules might be one step in that direction.

7. Whenever possible, use interactivity & multimedia to engage students.
Static Web pages provide information to users, interactive pages make users into participants. A PowerPoint presentation can help deliver a lecture more effectively because it's only one part of an interactive classroom experience. The same PowerPoint presentation viewed on a computer loses that dynamic context, unless elements are added which help engage the student.

8. Keep the interface simple and consistent.
Why has the Web taken off like a prairie fire? Is it the networked multimedia environment? Yes, but all the materials from diverse sources are retrievable by the same, familiar, easy-to-use interface; you typically don't have to learn new steps for viewing new sites.

9. Provide remote access to materials when possible.
Our students lead busy, complicated lives. If we can give them the option of working with course materials at a time and place of their convenience, it can make the difference in whether those materials are used effectively, or used at all.

10. Use technology to help integrate teaching and research.
The Internet provides daily more and more sources of information, including scholarly research in all fields. Tapping into those sources can inform your teaching with up-to-date information, as well as showing our students the relevance of the topics they are studying.