Teacher Tap

Technologies Change and Evolve

Be prepared to deal with a variety of technologies that are constantly changing. During any particular semester, new web browsers will appear, alternative versions of systems will be available, and advanced presentation formats may evolve.

Anticipate Change. Although you may be tempted to jump on each new technology as it comes along, consider your students, their skills, and access to technology. During one semester, I experienced new computer system software, updated web browsers and plugins, and new web development tools. Make sure you and your students are confident in a new product before making a commitment half-way through a course. Go to the publisher website for ideas. For example, if you're using Dreamweaver head to the Adobe site.

Make Good Decisions. Make informed decisions before jumping into a new technology. Ask yourself if the new technology worth the learning time, development time, and expense to you and your students. If you're looking for information on the latest technologies or price comparisons, check cnet.

Keep It Simple. Avoid "overdoing it." Skip the distracting animations, autoloading message, and annoying sounds and music. If you feel the need to add specialty items, stick to standard plugins that are easy to find such as Adobe Reader, QuickTime or Windows Movies, and Real Audio and Video. Avoid specialty software. If you do use special software, be sure to include instructions and a like for where it can be downloaded.

Add Elements. Once you feel confident and your course is running smoothly, you might want to add elements. For example, add short video clips, additional graphics, or an interactive elements. Try one thing and a time and provide good explanations and directions for your students. Consider field testing the elements on a few students first before committing to a new venture.

Distance learning can take place using many different technologies. While the course may start out as a video-based course, it is likely one or more additional technologies will be available by the next time you teach it. You might add a web element and later a threaded discussion page or a live chat. There will often be pressure to use new technology, whatever it might be. You must make an informed decision about whether the new technology really contributes to the course and is worth the learn time, development time, and expense for you and your students. The best way to "Be Prepared" is to continuously monitor your learning environment to be aware of which new technology would be the most beneficial.

Adapted from Virtual Sandcastles: Teaching and Learning at a Distance by Annette Lamb and William L. Smith.


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