Getting Started with Technology

(Originally from

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 17 (written by CRLT’s Erping Zhu and Matt Kaplan) of McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 14E.  From McKeachie/Svinicki. © 2014 Wadsworth, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

The phrase “teaching with technology” may conjure up a variety of different images depending on our own experiences as instructors, students, or even conference attendees. For some it might mean using PowerPoint or student classroom response systems in lectures; others may think of podcasting lectures; and still others may think of specific disciplinary applications, such as designing Web-based interactive learning modules and simulations to teach skills and concepts. While it is natural to think of the tool itself as a starting point, the use of instructional technology is more likely to be effective and appropriate (i.e., facilitate student learning and increase your own productivity) if it is integrated into a careful planning process that takes into account the various factors involved in teaching and learning.

Teaching with Technology Flowchart

Teaching with Technology has four components: the course content, technology tools, the instructor and the students. The course content includes cognitive level and discipline of the course. The technology tools include technology types and technology uses. The instructor includes technology skill level, time availability and his/her role as teacher. The students include their technology skill level, technology access and learning styles. All of these components are related to each other and involved in successfully integrating technology into one’s teaching.

From a systems approach, teaching with technology involves four major components: the course content, the instructor, the students and the technology tools (See Figure 17.1.). We need to attend to each component in order to make technology integration as successful as possible.

Each of these components is discussed in more detail below. Scroll down or navigate to a particular section:

  •    course content
  •    the instructor
  •    the students
  •    technology tools

Course Content

In order to use technology effectively in teaching, we must examine our course goals as we do when we plan a new course. What do you expect students to learn from the course? What skills and knowledge do you want them to acquire by the end of the term? What teaching strategies (lecture, discussion, group work, case studies, etc.) will best help students achieve these goals? Once you have answers to these questions, you can choose the appropriate technologies and design learning activities to help students reach the learning goals, and even employ technology to assess student learning.

More on Course Content: How to use technology for different educational objectives

To help make the connection between goals and technology tools, we can turn to the taxonomy of educational objectives developed by Benjamin Bloom (1956) and revised by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001). Objectives at the lower levels of the taxonomy involve acquisition of factual knowledge or development of basic comprehension. Higher-level learning involves skills such as analysis, evaluation, and creation. Figure 17.2 briefly illustrates the basis for selecting technology in accordance with this taxonomy of objectives. 

Educational Objective Chart

The Instructor

Once you have a clear view of the course goals and learning objectives and how technology can support students’ achievement of the goals, you will need to ask some questions about your own skills and confidence: 1) How skilled and experienced are you in using technology? 2) How much time do you have for course planning and selecting teaching strategies suited to your choices of technology? 3) What is your role as an instructor?

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. You can learn from colleagues in your department or attend a technology workshop to get started with software programs commonly used at your institution.

More on the instructor: Choosing tools that will work for you

More on the instructor: Handling student distraction

More on the instructor: How technology changes the instructor’s role


As you adopt technology tools into your courses, you will need to consider students’ previous experience with technology, their expectations and access to technology, and the variety of learning styles they bring to your course.

Are all students comfortable using technology?

Despite encouraging statistics about students’ comfort with technology, there are still segments of the population that may be far less familiar with technology. While the digital divide has narrowed over the past several years as Internet connectivity and home ownership of computers have increased, there are still disparities in who has Internet and broadband access and the use of specific technologies. For example, recent reports indicate that households earning higher incomes ($75,000+) use the Internet at much greater rates than lower income households, have higher levels of computer ownership, and are much more likely to use the Internet multiple times each day for a variety of tasks (Jansen, 2010).  Similarly, individuals living with disabilities use the Internet at much lower rates than those who do not report disabilities (Fox, 2011).
Thus, it is important not to assume that all students have had the same exposure and access to the technology you plan to use in class. Instead, you can conduct a brief survey at the beginning of the semester to find out where your students stand. Even students who come from households where technology was present might not have spent much time with it and might not be familiar with the applications you expect them to use. For example, a large number of students on college campuses know how to use iTunes and have MP3 players or iPods, but they may not necessarily know how to create a podcast. When you ask students to do a podcast project, a brief orientation to the technology, as well as some tasks that would allow them to learn the technology, will help all students succeed in completing the project and accomplishing course-specific goals. It is also important for you to tell them about the resources available and where they can go for help with technology questions. Finally, you can seek out the office on your campus that supports students with disabilities to learn more about services they offer so that you can be proactive (in your syllabus and in introducing the technology) about discussing accommodations for disabled students.

How technology changes the student’s role

Technology Tools

Now that we have carefully considered the context of teaching and learning, we can turn to an examination of the technology itself. One of the challenges we all confront is the need to understand the possible uses and functions of an ever-expanding array of technologies. You need to consider which applications are appropriate for your students, disciplinary learning, course content, and teaching style. Not all tools are the same. Some are better at promoting learning in specific content areas while others are useful for a wide range of disciplines. Some technology tools are built for specific instructional goals, while others are more generally applicable.


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