Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Choosing the Right Tool

photo credit: fixedgear via photo pin cc
When preparing to fix something around your house or on your car, you always check to see if you have the right tools for the job.  I recall the first home remodeling project I started in my house.  The computer room was covered in wallpaper that had been drawn on with pen and marker by the children of the previous owners.  So, it was decided to remove the wallpaper and paint the walls.  Of course, I got on the internet to look for easy ways to remove to wallpaper.  Several home recipes later, I found myself slowly winning in the wallpaper removal battle.  Before tackling my second wallpaper removal job, I purchased a small wallpaper steamer.  That little steamer and I got the job done in a few short days.  The tool made all the difference!

The same is true when working with technology.  There so many cool hardware and software tools to try out that when it is time to choose one for a class project with your students it is hard to make the best choice.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding on a tool:

1.  What are the objectives of the lesson? - Will the tool enhance or improve instruction?

2.  What are the objectives or purpose of the project you are having your students complete? - What knowledge should students gain through the project?  Will the tool you choose help students apply the content and learn new material?

3.  How the end product will be shared? -  Is it a stand-alone piece?  Is it a visual add for a speaking presentation?  Will it be published online?  Is it on an iPad and you want to move it to the computer or publish it online?

4.  What type of learner are your students? -  Are they good in front of a camera?  What level of technology skills do they have?  This doesn't mean students shouldn't step out of their comfort zone and try new tools, but maybe you can give them a few options so they can choose one that seems less threatening to them.

5.  Is the tool accessible? - Does the tool need to be purchased?  Does the tool require you to create an account?  Does the tool work on the student filter?

Here are a few final points not to forget when working with technology tools:
1.  Provide students with getting started instructions for the tech tool(s) you are asking them to use.  You don't have to show them all the advanced features because they will figure those out as they go or from their peers.

2.  Allow students time to learn to use the tool.  Before they use the tool on a major project, create a small project for them to use that tool.  One teacher introduced her students to Glogster and had them create a fact/opinion Glog for their first project on Glogster.  Later they used Glogster to create a book report (see samples).  The first assignment helped the student learn the tool and it helped the teacher work out issues with the tool relating to the filtering system.  It made the book report project run smoother and the students produced better projects.

3.  Allow for peer editing.  Sometimes we forget that a technology project is no different than a written Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything.
essay.  We take time in class for peer editing on essays, but we don't think about that option with a tech project.  Allow one day in class for students to present the content of their project and obtain feedback on how to improve the product.  There are some great rubric templates for technology projects at

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