Teaching with Technology Portfolio: Reflections on Lessons Learned Using Technology
Why Use Technology? The initial time investments required to incorporate technology often result in huge pay-offs. The benefits are the following:
Accessibility. When instructors digitize their instructional materials, they are able to store it online. There, students have access to the material whenever they have a computer or smart phone available to them. This means students can't lose important materials like the syllabus.
Pacing. Many of the traditional instructional tools have a pacing component built in. For example, a lecture must cover a specified amount of material within the time allotted. However, if the relevant lecture materials were also available online, students can revisit the material at their own pace.
Interactive Potential. Many studies have shown that collaboration is a key component to understanding mathematics. Given that the average age of a Penn State student is 20, one avenue for fostering that collaboration may be online. Creating ways for students to interact electronically would allow them the opportunity to refine their ideas with fellow students even if they have busy schedules or are very shy.
The effective online courses I have seen have all of these benefits. Yet, there is no reason to restrict these capabilities to online courses. Most traditional courses would benefit from some online component.
Technology, however, is not an educational panacea. The face-to-face environment demands a student's attention, allows the students to ask questions as they occur, and demonstrates techniques in real time. These are important experiences for students and I would argue that they are irreplaceable.
While I will continue to use many traditional educational practices, technology will be an important component to my courses. As an instructor, the digital materials I create make teaching future classes easier. While I may not use the same materials, revising materials to work better is an easy and fast process. I also plan on publishing my educational materials online for other students and instructors. If they prove to be useful, they will attract more traffic to my website thereby advertising my other projects.
I definitely believe technology is and will continue to be an important component to effective education. It has numerous benefits to students as well as instructors. While it won't completely replace the traditional classroom experience, a class without technology is deficient.
Evaluating Technology Every teaching tool I try, I evaluate by talking to my students either through a formal, anonymous survey or an informal class discussion. I also consider the outcomes. The syllabus slides were a very effective tool; all of my students were clear on the policies and many recited slides describing my philosophy of math as a motivational tool. Posting the homework, solution, and notes online were also very helpful. My students performed very well on exams and many have told me that they were excellent study aids.
One surprising thing I learned was that scanned copies of handwritten solutions were just as good as typed ones, if not better. Students had no trouble reading handwritten documents and preferred them for examples. I believe this is because written solutions demonstrate a layout for organizing mathematical data. When we type up solutions, they tend to be too "neat."
I measure my success as a teacher through the success of my students. If my students feel pleased with their performance and their knowledge, then I know I have done a good job providing for their educational needs. From my experience with using Angel to post homework, solutions, and notes and using a slide presentation to begin class, I feel I was able to achieve my goals. I would recommend all of these tools to any instructor.