I had a conversation with some colleagues this morning about the use of technology for technologies sake, rather than for the purpose of communication. We’ve all been subject to seminars where the presenter is using the latest technology to present and end up frustrated, annoyed and without any real learning experienced. It started me thinking about some dos and don’ts with an online or hybrid class when it comes to the use of technology. Here are some that I have found to be helpful:
- Don’t use the latest technology just because it is the new thing. It should be used because it is a good way to impart information in an easy to use format that enhances the learning process.
- Don’t go for the cheap razzle dazzle. Entertainment is fine, but the primary goal is learning and retaining the information that is being presented. You can have an amazing program, but if it is too long or the material is too complex for the time frame, you are wasting everybody’s time.
- Don’t let go of quality for glitz. Look at the technology and think, “is this going to make my class better?” It can be hard to realize that it not only won’t make my class better, it will be a roadblock, particularly if you know that you are the only one using it. The wish to show off a bit is understandable, but must be curbed when it is for the good of the students.
- Don’t wait for the last minute to test software. Be sure to test the new technology for bugs and issues before the class. Try and break it. Better that an issue appears when you are testing than in the middle of a class. Have others with varying abilities, computer hardware and bandwidth give it a try and see how it works for them. What are the issues that come up? Make note of those issues and see how they can be overcome so you are prepared when it inevitably happens with a class member. This is particularly true when doing a webinar. Nothing ruins a webinar more than a lot of technical issues that eat up time and reduce the attention span of those attending.
- Don’t rest on your laurels. Just because you have created something good, does not mean that it can’t be and shouldn’t be constantly tweaked/improved/updated. Again, don’t just update for the sake of a new software on the horizon. The content is key and should be the primary target. We use a version of Jeopardy for one of our classes. The questions are changed every year. Last year, we added video question/answers because they were a great way to address certain questions and it was a surprise for those in the audience. Surprise is good, when it is for a valid reason. Not so much when there is no need. It can be distracting and less informative under those conditions.
- Don’t show off to the detriment of your class. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You’ve all seen presentations where the latest software, Prezi comes to mind, where you can add in movement (i.e. zoom, swirl, blink) easily. Some movement is good because it tells the brain to pay attention, but a little goes a very long way. After a bit, it becomes distracting and then annoying. You can’t learn when you are distracted or annoyed. That doesn’t mean programs like Prezi aren’t fine. They just need to be used in a way that is helpful not hurtful.
- Do use your creativity and available technology when appropriate. The key is knowing when and how to use the software to enhance your course, not just for the sake of using something new. If it helps to truly make the course interactive, that is good, but it must be easily used, dependable and relevant.
Regardless of what technology you use, be sure to test it for bugs and what I call user appreciation. If you get feedback that says it is difficult, distracting or superfluous, think long and hard before using it. There are many ways to teach a subject, but once you lose a student, they are unlikely to come back and they are the reason we do what we do.