Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph
When the song “Life is a Highway“ comes on, it is one of those songs you turn up a little, maybe even smile, roll down the window, and sing the chorus. One line sticks out to me “Life’s like a road that you travel on.” I hear this and think there is a parallel to education.
We have around 180 days each year to drive our students’ learning. Think about a highway. There are fast cars, some slower cars, cars trying to pass, and some cars stuck in the breakdown lane or pulled over lost. Sound familiar? Like a classroom?
If you are on the highway and need to know where you are going, what is the first thing you do? You open your GPS and add the destination, and a map will show you the way. In education, our GPS is our lesson plan. We know where we want to go, and we set a course to get there.
A solid lesson plan should provide you, the teacher, the direction and the ability to visualize the path of learning that consists of the “what, why, and how” of the teaching-learning activities. Your lesson plan is a sequence of well-organized learning experiences that connects instructional events. I believe an effective lesson plan also provides opportunities for students thinking to be visible, and allows them to interact and ask questions, tap into their background knowledge, and build new skills to make connections to a real-life situation to practice critical thinking skills. The use of real-world scenarios will increase rigor, relevance, and critical thinking. This often is when “technology” is put into a plan as an activity.
While I am a huge advocate for the purposeful integration of technology in schools, we must resist the temptation to think that this is the solution to solve all the ills in our current education system. Using technology just for the sake of “using it” equates to a huge waste of instructional time. Sometimes when teachers make a plan that includes educational technology, learning can become secondary to the tech.
When building a lesson plan, we should never ask, “What am I going to do with _________ today?” (Insert iPads, PowerPoint, Kahoot, or any tool you may want to use in the blank.) Our goal is to plan a lesson using technology to enhance learning not take the place of teaching.
So how can we accomplish this?
Think back to that Tom Cochrane song “Life is a Highway” … “Education is like a road that you travel on” and we can use our instructional #GPS to ensure educational technology is planned to enhance learning. I use GPS as an acronym to support this method of planning.
The learning content which is characterized by the subject matter guidelines. Bottom line – what do you want the student to learn by the end of the lesson?
Develop a sequence of well-organized learning experiences, that provides for a variety of instructional checkpoints. Ensure you include the opportunity for higher level questioning. Your plan should provide direction and comprehensive, integrated, and meaningful content at the appropriate student level.
I like to use self-reflection and questioning to support planning. Questions can include:
These questions help drill down to develop a plan that will enhance your goal while providing opportunities for student learning.
Technology can become a nice pedagogical fit when viewed as supporting and enhancing instruction. When it comes to implementing Ed Tech, we must always ask ourselves how the tool will support learning.
Now, you have set your Goal, designed your Plan, and matched the learning goals with Support tools. So I want to also provide you with a list of some great educational tech tools that I recommend.
Educational tools I recommend that will enhance lessons include:
Each learner has a unique learning style & unique requirements. Our role as educators is to match those needs with tools and techniques. There is a paradigm shift in learning. I see digital learning as a technique that is facilitated to effectively combine different modes of delivery, models of teaching, and styles of learning with digital tools. Applying this technique in an interactively meaningful learning environment starts with a dynamic lesson plan, and setting the GPS to drive your instruction.
Innovative instruction is not only about “thinking” differently, but also “acting” differently. This year, let’s work to include innovative ideas and activities into lesson plans. Most students know how to use technology. However, we cannot assume that they know how to use technology to support their learning. This is where the attention to sound instructional design is necessary.
Start with a pedagogical foundation in the plan, and then add the Ed Tech. This will set the stage for students to truly begin to own their learning in ways never imagined. The key is to determine what we want our students to know, and then let them have a choice as to how they will demonstrate or apply their learning. This not only adds relevance and meaning to the learning, but also takes the pressure off the educators from having to learn how to use an endless number of tools.
Technology can become a nice pedagogical fit when viewed this way. Adopting a mindset of pedagogy first, educational technology (when appropriate) second, emphasizes a focus on what’s most important – student learning. When it comes to technology, we must always ask ourselves, “how will this tool support learning and allow students to demonstrate conceptual mastery?”
There must be more of a concerted focus when building lessons, on learning outcomes, construction of new knowledge, leading to authentic application, and the development/enhancement of essential skills (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship, entrepreneurship, media literacy, technological proficiency, communication, collaboration).