Today’s classrooms sometimes come with computers, SmartBoards, iPads, cameras, touch tables, and more, all outfitted with more technological tools than we needed to get to the moon. When it comes to incorporating these tools into a lesson plan, is more always better? No, certainly not. Technology should be used strategically, not as ploys to entertain students or simply for the sake of using these resource-expensive digital tools.
It should all start with the learning objectives of the lesson plan. These objectives should be specific and concrete; they should be measurable. They should not set unrealistic expectations. In teaching a lesson about local geography, a learning objective might be: Students will create a map of the area around the school, incorporating three features that aid in direction-giving.
To get started on this project, the teacher might open Google Earth on her computer and project it so the students can see her zoom in on their school. They could discuss as a class what they see that helps them know where they are–street signs, recognizable buildings or parks, and so on. If this is an in-class assignment and students don’t have access to a class set of laptops or iPads, they can draw their own map from what they see projected, or they could go to the computer lab and work on mapping software to create their map digitally. But if the mapping software is too complex or offers an overwhelming array of options, it might distract students from the task at hand.
When building a lesson plan, technology shouldn’t be incorporated simply because it is available. Be wary of it serving as a distraction or a reward before it works as a tool.