How To Teach EdTech to Future Teachers

I’ve been asked to pilot a new edtech class this spring for undergraduate ed majors in University of Portland’s School of Education. I’m still in the brainstorm phase and I thought I’d like to share some of my initial thinking.

First off  – a few things that I don’t want to do:

  • Oversell edtech. Too often educators try to force the latest edtech tool into the classroom because they think it’s cooler. Faster. Shinier.
  • Focus on teaching apps. Oh how I hated being forced to sit in a computer lab and suffer though PowerPoint professional development as a teacher. When I need students to use a specific app, I typically create a YouTube channel of short screencast how-tos. Or students can use the University’s Lynda account for more.
  • Take sides in the platform / device religious wars. These students will end up teaching in different settings, each with it’s own unique edtech landscape. They’ll need to be able to use what ever they find in their placements.

Instead I’d like to first “teach” adaptability – the mindset that’s helped me navigate the ever-changing edtech environment since I began my career in the early ’70s – an era of filmstrip projectors, 16mm movies and ditto machines. I’ve always thought first about my instructional goals, then tried to leverage whatever resources I could find to reach them. That calls for flexibility and a willingness to figure things out on your own. I couldn’t wait around for some school-sponsored PD.

A second, equally important goal would be to teach critical evaluation of the intersection of good instruction and technologies. A good teacher is skeptical, always re-assessing what’s working and what’s not. That’s especially important in the dynamic edtech world.

I envision a problem-based approach where I layout a series instructional challenges (opportunities?) and invite student teams to come back with a plan for achieving the goal using as much or as little technology as they saw fit. They would be expected to find a way to share their work in or out of class (why not flip that as well?) We would then go though a group evaluation, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Was the juice worth the squeeze? Move on to the next instuctional challenge. Reflect, rinse, repeat.

Here’s how I thought I might open my first class:  “Good instructional often begins with a pre-assessment. This is an edtech class, so as a starting point we need to get sense of where everyone resides on edtech landscape.”

  • What would be useful to know?
  • How should we gather that info?
  • How do we store and share (represent) what we find out?
  • Would any digital technologies be useful in this task? If so, which ones?
  • How do we set that up so that your peers can be successful participants?

Brainstorm over: Any thoughts on this approach? Anyone else out there teaching an edtech course and care to share?

Image Credit: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area, typing class with W.P.A. instructor ca. 1933
National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 197144

5 Replies to “How To Teach EdTech to Future Teachers”

  1. Peter,

    I think you are right in target with your “don’ts” listed. The beginning approach of a pre-assessment is also a sound start. I have been training teachers at all levels for over 25 years as a practitioner versus a pure academic. I am encouraged with the base skills new teachers come to the classroom with today. They are much better equipped to understand the rapidity with which technology must be integrated and deployed for purposeful activity. A couple of thoughts:

    1. Technology should make process more efficient and attainment of goals expedient. If it is not serving this purpose then ditch it.
    2. Die hard platform and application camps – as in one is the best and only best – has no place in the technology world any longer. The idea of toolbox – add things to it, use what is best suited, and allow creativity to flourish is best. This is a really important idea for our learners.
    3. Ed Tech training should be mostly about learning, efficiency, and productivity and less about a wow factor of a singular application now forced into the content somewhere. I would move towards the elimination of the term “EdTech”. It connotes isolation of skills. We have teaching and learning strategies that should be the focus – technology supports these as a seamless part of the process – Again to make make process more efficient and attainment of goals expedient.

    My personal favorite topic related to technology and its role in education is that of understanding the value of a robust Learning Management System. The box for your tools.

    Just a few thoughts here to consider. I wish you the best in your work creating something meaningful for your students. You are on the right path.


  2. I have elected to teach from the text, How People Learn, and emphasizing that in any instructional situation this framework helps a teacher make decisions about technology and technologies that actually support learning. So the course is teaching and learning first then supported by technologies. Just my 2 cents.

  3. Great tidbits here.The main focus with my students is “ENGAGEMENT”, at least that’s my experience as a 4th grade teacher here in Oregon. Its all about creative ways to approach it and put it in context. These kids are more technologically savvy than some adults. I think its more teachers that need to learn how to do this. Good post.

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