Thursday, April 16, 2015

EdTech: A Recipe for Success

Have you ever had a colleague suggest a website, digital tool, or app that has worked wonders for them? And then you try it and its a total disaster? And you try it again to give it another chance and it feels like pulling teeth? If so, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong, and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Using technology in the classroom is a bit like cooking. A flopped recipe doesn’t mean you can’t cook or that you should never make that food again.

A cookbook has many recipes, and we all gravitate toward different things. Naturally, what tastes good to some people won’t necessarily taste good to others.  Some of us like Indian food, but stay away from Korean. Some people prefer Mexican food but run from African foods. Not only that, some recipes are more complex, and others more basic. We tend toward those that match our current skill level best. Additionally, some foods are much easier to “throw things into” rather than meticulously following every step of the recipe. If we all opened the same cookbook, we’d likely all choose a different recipe. And that’s ok.

This is sort of how users of classroom technology are as well. Not every tool is suited for every person. Some people find and stick with one particular app that has worked well for them that is simple and basic. Some people like to try lots of different tools, until they find a handful that work best. Others are more drawn toward full-featured, extensive pieces of software that allow them to do many different things. When we’re allowed to choose our tech tool, we’ll likely all choose a different tool. And that’s ok.

Even though we all have different preferences for digital tools, this isn’t an excuse to just give up and use the same thing you’ve always used. If and when tools don’t work the way we want them to, the activity becomes a waste of time, until we reflect on the experience and assess what didn’t work, why it didn’t work, and whether or not the issues were related to the tool itself. Here are some questions to ask after trying a new tool:

Digital Tool Reflection Questions
  • Key: Was the learning objective met? (or at least on the way to being met)
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well?
If there were problems,
  • Was it because the tool was difficult?
  • Was it because of inexperience with the tool?
  • Will more experience with it make things go more smoothly?
If you use it again,
  • What pieces of information should students have/know BEFORE the tool is in use?
  • What classroom management pieces should be put in place for future uses?
  • What questions do you need answered from someone who has used the tool before?

So when you try a tool that has been successful for someone else, but it doesn’t work for you, try again. And if still seems like it doesn’t fit your purpose and skills, remember, what your mom made well isn’t always going to be the dish you excel at. If that tool doesn’t work, try something else. You never know what tool will spark creativity and critical thinking in your students!