In today’s classroom’s, technology is a very important tool to use. Many students bring laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other device to class and instructors are now tapping into those devices many various functions to enhance the learning environment. There are also hundreds and even thousands of websites, blogs, open classrooms, videos, social network sites and etc. that can be used in the classroom as well. Technology can be very useful for first time for people like myself, who are new to teaching, especially in the online realm. Entering into the world of online teaching and learning can create uncertainty and trepidation, and even a feeling of being overwhelmed as you venture into a world of unfamiliar tools and students at a distance (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).
The impact that technology can have on adult learning could be huge. Many adults have been out of the classroom for some time, and getting back into the swing of things can be a huge task. However, with technology at their fingertips, it will make learning much easier, and manageable, especially for those with hectic lives and schedules. Remember too, that tools are constantly changing, but usually they are also getting much easier and many of them are free (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). To an adult learner, easy and free and like magic words. We already have a lot to juggle in our personal and professional lives, the last thing we want or need is complicated in our school lives.
Before incorporating technology into the classroom, instructors need to be aware of the different types of learners you have and their unique individual learning styles. I don’t think it would be appropriate to introduce advanced technology into the classroom if the students may not be prepared. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) state that “just as in the classroom, you will develop a sense of what is right for a particular group of learners.” Usability and accessibility are intrinsically linked; the lower the level of accessibility of the resource for an individual, the less usable it will be for them (Cooper, 2007). These two are especially important for adult learners. We are impatient learners, and if something if not user friendly and difficult to access, we will clam up and give up. I have also experienced that with students who are disabled, this can be an issue. The main challenge in accessibility is responding to the diversity of the ways different users interact with a computer environment (Cooper, 2007).
As a future online educator, I like the idea of having hundreds of technologies to turn to for teaching. This also scares the living crap out of me. With basically a smogashboard of technology out there, where do you begin, and how do you know what your students will like and be receptive to? According to Boettcher and Conrad (2010), the best approach for teaching a first online course is to keep it simple. I like the idea of students using a blog. One of the reasons for this, is that it will be something they can always come back. They will be able to look to their peers for insight, and even years later it will still be there. I also would use open classrooms, because it allows students to gage exactly what other universities may be teaching their students, and if they see something from a different perspective they may understand it better.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231–245.