10 tips to improve and integrate technology use into your teaching

by Ethan Magoc
Master’s student, University of Florida
Best practices for teaching with technology or teaching new software skills to students are fluid and highly subjective, but these are 10 general strategies I have found help to effectively incorporate technology use and instruction into a teaching skill set.
1. Think about benefits of each tool. Think about drawbacks. Why are you teaching this? What will students get out of it? Make sure it’s worth their and your time.
2. Think about learning outcomes. What specific skills should they leave with? What skills should they be prepared to learn? There is currently a strong emphasis on teaching for job descriptions that don’t yet exist in journalism and other communication fields. Make sure students are aware of this and your limitations as teacher.
3. Go slow. Then go fast. Give students time to grasp new tools, then let them fly. Their creativity should take hold at a certain point.
4. Allow students’ first experiences with a new tool to occur independently. This allows for initial experimentation. They’re likely to get in and discover facets that you may not have yet, i.e. “hacking” in the term’s best sense.
5. Always encourage exploration of peers’ and others’ superior work. Use this time as an aspirational learning exercise, within reason. If teaching audio storytelling, play segments from “This American Life.” If teaching video, show Hearst or CPOY multimedia winners. If teaching data or Web presentation, show News21 work.
6. Don’t be afraid of the Web/phones/laptop use in class. Integrate a backchannel with purpose. As a student during the early days of Web 2.0, I had two professors who used Twitter for backchannel activities, and both were successful and a unique experience each time.
7. Know the tools well enough to troubleshoot. Then, teach the same, letting them discover problem-solving skills in real time. Be prepared for any and all issues that can come up, particularly with video editing.
8. Think visually. This is a second (even first?) language for digital natives. Try not to let a class go by without a single gripping image that will stay with students.
9. Trust yourself. You’ve clearly been inspired by many teachers over the course of 20 or more years of schooling yourself. You’ve seen what works, and you can adapt it to your own teaching style. Just don’t get overwhelmed when teaching new software or material.
10. Don’t teach students just one thing. Teach them how to learn. We do not have all the answers, nor will their future employers.
Sources/additional reading

Ethan Magoc is a student in Mass Communication Teaching.

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