Objectives first/Technology tool(s) next

Yesterday, I did a presentation to a group of faculty members on the topic of Writing Across the Curriculum. My talk was about using digital technologies for writing projects, and I came up with 10 ideas . . . just enough to pique interest, but not to overwhelm the audience. There are so many tools out there that can be used in so many ways. But how would a teacher know which ones to use?

My advice is to try to select the tool that will align with your instructional objectives. Just using a wiki for students to “collaborate,” finding and posting resources does not meet instructional objectives and will not provide any goal or end product that will motivate your students to complete the work. You need to lookahead to your objectives and really define what your students will be able to do or end up with. It might be a glossary wiki for a state agency, providing a valuable resource for finding Spanish translations to new legal terminology. It might be an online journal, with student writing being continually added each semester. It might be a brochure created for a government agency or an ad campaign for a health issue. Whatever it is, the technology can sometimes serve as the staging, brainstorming, and design space for the final project, which might be another type of technology. It’s important to know that selecting the technology is not always perfect, but again, once you define the objectives and end-product, you should be able to identify the technology that would help your students move forward.

Here’s another thought . . . technology is never perfect. You may find that there are some issues/problems/challenges with what you and your students are using, and this is okay. Eventually, you need to take the initiative and move forward, even if you don’t have all of the bugs worked out. (Why do you think we are seeing more and more beta versions? The software companies need to get the product out so they can get feedback, good and bad, from the end users. It’s a natural part of the process of learning with technology.)

So, if you get one thing out of this posting, remember to identify and focus on your instructional objectives. Start with the end point and move backward if needed. Identify the best technology (or ask an expert for help) that would enhance the learning. Then, ask for feedback and make adjustments as necessary.

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