Focus on the Learning, Not the Technology

OK... I know that is strange coming from me, but its a common mistake I see so many make. Someone finds this really neat tool for online learning, and tries to build a class around it. If you have done this, don't feel alone. You are not the only one (including myself). It takes a conscious effort sometimes to remain focused that its about the learning, not the technology. I want to take you back to a time (ok, for some of you), when a fancy new program called "PowerPoint" came out. It was an amazing tool. Now you could put all the highlights of your lesson for all the students to view while you lectured. I think we all know the outcome of this. If you don't, here is a little video to help you remember.

"Life After Death by PowerPoint" is a reminder of what happens when we allow technology to be a higher priority than the learning. But PowerPoint hasn't been the only tool where this has occurred. Ever taken a MOOC where you spend the time painfully watching endless videos of lectures of a professor droning on and on and on and on.... Ironically, someone, somewhere calls that learning. I went through this today with a course on and it was painful. So how do you overcome this? You have this nifty set of tools for online learning and you are just itching to use them. Its as simple as three steps. So let's begin... 



  1.  What is the point of your class? Call it learning objectives, course goals, or outcomes, but build these first. Define what you want the student to learn and what you want them to be able to do upon completion. Put every other aspect out of your mind for the moment and build these first. I use the C-B-S (Condition, Behavior, Standard) method myself, but whatever works for you is great. If you don't have clearly defined goals of the class, the rest is going to be a problem. 
  2. How do students learn this information the best? Maybe its visually, hands on, or writing, find the avenues that best present your material and how the students are going to learn it in the most beneficial format. For example, if you are teaching an art subject, you are going to need a lot of visual information. If its a writing class, its just theory until someone starts writing something. Based on your course objectives, find the ways that students will learn in and integrate it into their being. 
  3. OK, now you can bring in the technology. Now that you have accomplished the learning objectives and determined the teaching methods, consider the technology. Only after you have successfully completed steps one and two. Consider tools that accomplish your learning process. To use one of our previous examples, consider a writing class. Perhaps a blogging tool, or a collaborative tool. There are a variety out there, and in many cases, your teaching approach can be accomplished. 
Learning is not about "wowing" student with cool tools, but about leveraging technology to address your teaching approach. I would also recommend some type of assessment method to ensure you get some feedback on whether your course is working or not. Tools used for the sake of using technology only creates boring classes. Bring exciting, engaging classes to your online classes. Its the instructor's obligation and we owe it to our students.