Overwhelmed by Flashy Apps? Prioritize This When Choosing Classroom Tech

"Tips for choosing classroom tech for your school" with background photo of computers hovering over a person's palm

Choosing classroom tech is an important responsibility for teachers, PD directors, instructional coaches, and other school leaders determining schoolwide priorities for classrooms.

Technology tools for students and teachers are in abundance nowadays, which makes choosing the right edtech time-consuming.

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

There’s no one right answer for all schools.

Rather, Monica Burns, author of “Ed Tech Essentials” and ClassTechTips founder, told us what educators and leaders should consider when choosing classroom tech to 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 below, or keep reading for highlights including what questions to ask when choosing classroom tech and how to support differentiation.

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

From years of designing PD and working with teachers, Monica helps educators, as well as school administrators, establish two key things before choosing classroom tech.

“[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 choosing 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 an app or platform based on that.

Choosing classroom tech without student 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.

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Choosing tech for teacher PD?

Questions to ask before choosing classroom tech

Monica Burns also offered several questions that are helpful in guiding educators and school admin to make the right classroom tech choices for their students and school 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 school’s students also depends on alignment with the larger setting.

Monica calls this idea, “Embrace your place.”

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

Trying to adopt too many different learning apps and tools can lead to feeling like classrooms are 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 students and easiest for teachers to implement.

Choosing 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 for determining the differentiation solution that will be right for your school:

  • 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 school and 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.

Watch: Monica Burns’ Guiding Questions for Choosing Classroom Tech

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