Overwhelmed by Flashy Apps? Prioritize This When Choosing Classroom Tech

Monica Burns' Guiding Questions for Choosing Classroom Tech | #PLtogether

Edtech tools are in abundance nowadays, which makes choosing the right classroom tech for students tricky.

Should you adopt the latest flashy app? Should you stick to the tried and tested that your school has been using for years?

Or, perhaps it’s just time to return to papers and chalkboards.

There’s no one right answer for every classroom.

Rather, Monica Burns, author of “Ed Tech Essentials” and ClassTechTips founder, told us how educators can decide what classroom tech they should use.

In this PLtogether Lounge Talk, Monica talked with Edthena founder and CEO Adam Geller, and the two discussed how to keep learning at the forefront of learning technology.

Watch the full conversation above, or keep reading for highlights, including what questions to ask when selecting edtech and how to support differentiation digitally.

“Tasks before apps”—how to know if your classroom tech is meeting student goals

From years of delivering professional development and working with teachers, Monica helps educators establish two key things before choosing edtech for the classroom.

“[We] prioritize what it is we want students to know and be able to do, [and] the experiences we want them to have in a classroom setting,” said Monica.

Hammering these big objectives around student learning and experiences down first is crucial.

This helps to avoid simply picking classroom tech that’s new and shiny but won’t actually help students with the learning they need.

Monica continued, “Then [we] look for the technology and the digital tools that will help them get to that place.”

Monica sums this up in the phrase, “Tasks before apps.”

This means that teachers and school leaders should look at what tasks or goals they’re trying to accomplish with students, and picking the app based on that.

Selecting classroom tech without learning front and center can result in trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, and won’t lead to productive student outcomes.

Questions to ask before adding more edtech tools to your classroom

image of toolbelt filled with screwdrivers with text "Is your classroom tech toolbelt overflowing?"

Monica Burns also offered several questions that are helpful in guiding educators to make the right classroom tech choices for their students and setting.

First, she posed, “Do you have something in your toolbelt that will help students share their learning?”

End this question with a variety of other categories and you have a way to narrow down which edtech tools to consider using.

For example, “Do you have something in your toolbelt that will help capture data from formative assessments?” or “… that will support students with their end-of-year portfolios?”

The “best” classroom tech for your students also depends on alignment with the school setting.

Monica calls this idea, “Embrace your place.”

“What have you been asked to use from a district or school level? And if you’re choosing other tools … does it work with that other platform?” Monica suggested educators ask.

Trying to adopt too many different learning apps and tools can lead to feeling like your classroom is overflowing with too much tech.

That’s why it’s important to ask these questions to yourself or colleagues to help pare down your classroom tech choices to what is best for your students.

Classroom tech tools that help with differentiation

Differentiation, making instruction more targeted and accessible to students’ diverse needs, is another area that can be aided by technology solutions.

Here are some of Monica’s recommendations on determining the differentiation solution that will be right for your class:

  • For different reading abilities or processing needs, classroom tech that can toggle between levels or word count, or has audio and text options
  • For group work, edtech tools that can efficiently distribute differentiated assignments to individual students
  • For various interest levels, classroom apps that allow teachers to search for differently-themed content

These are just some ways that classroom tech can be used to prioritize and effectively support student learning.

There’s no single tech solution; it’s about the decision-making process

As classroom tech expert Monica Burns shared with us, there’s no one right answer to which edtech or learning apps teachers should be using.

It’s about determining your students’ needs and using that to guide the selection process.

Want more insights about classroom tech? Check out all of our conversations with Monica Burns or read about 5 Easy Ways to Use Edtech Tools with In-Person Students.

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