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First steps into ... tips and lesson ideas: Evaluating emerging technologies

Type: Article

How do you know which emerging technologies to choose for your classes? Daniel Barber and Brian Bennett suggest a framework for assessing what’s right … and what’s just hype.

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How should I begin to evaluate emerging technologies?

Emerging pedagogies include some promising new ideas for our classrooms, such as flipped and blended learning models – principled ways of bringing digital technologies into our toolbox of techniques and resources. With any new venture you undertake in your development as a teacher, though, you need to go in with a sense of curiosity and healthy skepticism. Curiosity to explore … and skepticism to be cautious. And that’s what this article is for – to encourage you to ask some important questions, such as:

  • Why should I adopt this technology?
  • Is this emerging pedagogy as effective as established ones?
  • Does this learning tool really make learning faster and stronger?
  • Will this technology work in my teaching environment, with my students?

Let’s say a colleague has told you about a great new app that students can use to record vocabulary and test themselves on what they know. How can you know it’s the right one for your class?

Well, first, if it has been recommended, that’s a good sign, isn’t it? The opinions of fellow teachers you respect are valuable. But online reviews from strangers can be trustworthy, too, as long as you take the time to double check their recommendations on different sites to make sure that what they say is true.

Next, you should use the technology yourself. Experiencing it from the students’ point of view for a prolonged period helps to identify its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re learning a language, you could try using it yourself. Try it every day for a week before you consider promoting it among your students.

Then, use the questionnaire at the end of this article: The Emerging Pedagogies Evaluation.

Look around at alternatives, too. It may be there’s an app that’s better than this one, or some other way of learning vocabulary. Don’t discount old-fashioned methods – you might just find that notebooks and pens are more effective than anything on a screen!

Finally, you need to ask the learners themselves. Show them how to use the technology in class, then give them time to try it out in their own time. A few days later, why not use the Emerging Pedagogies Evaluation below to get feedback from students? Be aware that this questionnaire is designed for you, the teacher, so you may need to simplify the questions or present the questionnaire in a slightly different way to your class, depending on their level. Even so, handing over the evaluation controls to your students is a crucial step towards digital literacy.

A useful extension is to do a lesson in which students get the chance to review apps and other learning tools for each other. Get them writing app reviews, for example, or have different students recommend different apps they have been trying in the form of presentations.

The Emerging Pedagogies Evaluation

The first question to ask yourself is whether any new resource for learning and teaching helps with … learning and teaching! Here are some further questions you can ask about any new digital resource.

Pedagogical considerations

  • Does it provide a good amount of practice of the skills I need?
  • Can it be adapted to the language that I need to learn, and at my level?
  • Is it based on an intelligent mode of how language works, e.g. teaching words in useful, everyday chunks and expressions, not just single words in isolation?
  • Does it let me use the language in a personalised way, to talk about my life and things that matter to me?
  • Does it encourage me to notice interesting new words and structures?
  • Does it give me valuable feedback? Does it correct me?

Motivational considerations

  • Do I want to use it again? Is it interesting, fun or challenging?
  • Do I enjoy and see value in using it?

Practical considerations

  • Is it available on the platforms that I use?
  • Is it flexible enough that I can decide what to learn and when?
  • Is the app free or affordable?

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