5 Tips for Harnessing Technology as a Learning Tool | #Edchat Recap


“Ppl need to realize that this is EMBEDDED practice, not an add-on, and not about tech. About learning. Thats it!” -@gcouros

The quote above summarizes this Tuesday evening @edchat discussion on how we can move from a “Tech Tool” mentality to a “Learning Tool” mentality. All the talk about integrating technology and increasing teacher technology literacy  isn’t about the latest and greatest in technology at all. It’s about harnessing these revolutionary learning tools for learning purposes, about meeting 21st century learners on their terms and teaching them how to use the tools necessary for survival and success in today’s world. To read more on meaningful, purposeful integration of technology, check out 5 Questions for Planning Successful Web-based Activities.

Overcoming Our Fears and Assumptions

For some reason, technology is a scary word to many, especially teachers. This is so strange since to me since our society relies on technology tools for almost everything we do – especially when it comes to learning and productivity. Technology is the vehicle by which our society access content. It is our responsibility as 21st century educators to teach, model, and integrate appropriate and effective use for our students.  As pointed out in #edchat, utilizing technology as a learning tool is not solely for the purpose of motivating, captivating, and engaging students, it is a necessity.

We often make the assumption that kids are ahead of us in terms of technology, however when it comes to using technology as learning tools we are usually wrong in this assumption. Students must be taught how to view and utilize the tools at their fingertips for educational, and not solely entertainment, purposes.

5 Tips for Harnessing Technology as a Learning Tool

  • Go out of your comfort zone! Take the time to explore and learn by getting your own hands dirty with technology before asking your teachers or students to do so. Don’t be afraid to fail or ask for help and give your teachers and students a chance to do so as well.
  • Transform your professional development by emphasizing, modeling, and utilizing technology as teacher learning tools. Teachers must see the relevance and necessity of these learning tools before they will be comfortable using them with their students.
  • Begin with desired learning outcomes. Align all integration in a purposeful way. Teach the use of these learning tools in context with content.
  • Collaborate among and between teachers. For example, technology teachers and English teachers should be working together to design interdisciplinary units like Mrs. Sivick’s Fourth Grade technology class.
  • Create a digital toolbox like this one including resources, lessons, projects, “unprojects”, ideas, and examples of technology tools as learning tools for your teachers and students.

An interesting question was asked during the discussion that went unanswered; “Where can teachers go to see cool stuff to do with these new learning tools?” If your school or district has not yet created a digital toolbox, as described above, begin by building your own professional learning network or attend or plan a local edcamp to get amazing resources and ideas.

My biggest takeaways from #edchat were that as with all great learning, one size does not fit all. We must teach our students to utilize technology as a learning tool, give them the freedom to decide which tools work best for them in different contexts, and the power to “create and innovate rather than regurgitate” (@ketheredge).

Photo from Michael Peterson

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