Modern college students are digital natives—they’ve always lived in a world surrounded by user-friendly, handheld technology, and information at their fingertips. More and more, such students expect their professors to be teaching with technology, creating a college classroom where technical tools are infrequent and easy use. But if you’re not used to integrating technology into your teaching methods, incorporating new tools can seem like a big challenge. When do you have time to learn the new tools adequately in order to seamlessly add them to your teaching strategies? And how do you prioritize them? These questions can be difficult to answer, but once you start a trend finding new ways of teaching with technology, you may find that each new tool becomes an easier achievement.

Teaching with technology

What does teaching with technology mean? Typically, it refers to teaching with newer, cutting-edge technology, rather than low-tech tools like pencil and paper (though those are certainly technical tools as well). Some technology tools frequently used in a college classroom are:

  • Online collaboration tools that allow documents and spreadsheets to be edited by groups of people in real time.
  • Presentation software, such as PowerPoint.
  • Clickers and smartphones, which can be used to poll students during class.
  • Lecture-capture tools, which allow professors to record and upload their lectures for students to review via computer.

There are also course organizers, which allow students to review the course syllabus and assignments; journal databases available through your college library, which allow you to assign digital articles as readings; and hardware such as tablets and projectors.

Don’t try it all at once

According to Wilbert J. McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition, it’s best not to bite off more than you can chew. “If you have little or no experience using technology, it might make sense to start slowly with tools that are established and easy to use so that you build your confidence and support your students’ learning,” they wrote.

How can you go about mastering new tools?

  • Rely on your peers among the faculty. Find out what tools they are finding useful—and which aren’t worth their time—and take that advice to heart. You only have so much time in a day; don’t bother with tools that end up being more trouble than they’re worth!
  • Attend technology workshops. These may be offered at your institution for the faculty or may be more open workshops for faculty, staff, and students to attend.
  • Get in touch with your IT department. If they aren’t already offering workshops, they may do a one-on-one tutorial for you or might realize that the need means a workshop would be appropriate on campus.

But be wary of spending too much time on developing your skills with new tools. If you’re thinking of integrating a tool that is complex and new to you, be aware that you need to set aside extra time to invest in learning that tool rather than focusing on other aspects of your course. And sometimes, that cost outweighs the benefit. In an October 2, 2015 article for Faculty Focus, “Taking the Tech Out of Technology,” Samuel Buemi of Northcentral Technical College reported that when he conducted a survey of online learners at his institution, the thing they wanted most was more instructor contact. No amount of technology is an adequate replacement for quality interaction with students!

What are the best technical tools you’re introduced into your teaching methods? Tell us in the comments.

Reference: McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Marilla Svinicki. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth