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Technology comes second August 5, 2013

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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I’ve said it before, but apparently it bears saying again. Learning and learners come first, technology second.

I mention this now because I’ve seen several posts lately to “thought provoking articles”  that essentially say the same thing.  However, I haven’t seen anything about HOW to make sure that your focus is on learning, so here are my steps.

  1. What do your students need to learn? Establish your learning objectives.
  2. How will you know if they have learned it? Establish your learning outcomes.
  3. What research has been done on the best methods for teaching and learning this material?
  4. What are the best technologies for implementing these methods?
  5. Who are your students? What technologies are they already familiar with, use commonly, and have easy access to?
  6. Where is the overlap between 4&5?
  7. If there is something that falls under 3 but not 4, is the benefit of using it so great that you need them to learn it?

Before any semester/class/seminar/etc. you should make a list of learning objectives, and the learning outcomes for each objective. Everything you do after that, from picking your technology to designing lesson plans to writing exams should be determined by looking back at the objectives and outcomes. If you feel the need to alter the objectives or outcomes to fit a piece of technology, stop.

One final tip: start with the ideas that are either vital or that you want your students to remember 25 years from now. For example, I don’t care if my students remember that the Sun is about 6000 K or how to determine the temperature by measuring the difference between the star’s flux through a blue filter and a red filter. I care that they remember that astronomers can measure the color of a star and tell you the temperature, and once upon a time, they could do it to. They aren’t going to get that if I send a bunch of data to their cell phones, but they just might get it if they get to watch me attach the filter wheel to the CCD, determine what images need to be taken by talking to their neighbors, then go home and download the appropriate data to whatever device is most convenient.

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