Evaluating ed-tech tools

Evaluating ed-tech tools

Here at COERLL we value the use of technology in the language classroom. As open educators, we believe that educational materials and tools should be open. By “open”, we mean: easy to access, customizable, affordable for teachers and students, and created for the greater good of a community of educators. Unfortunately, educational technology and openness do not always go hand in hand.

Openness involves tinkering and experimentation, but technology tools can be rigid in their functionality. Open educators share freely with peers, but technology tools often carry a copyright and may only be available to schools who can afford them. Ideally the flexibility of openness allows for more innovation, but some technology tools perpetuate outdated teaching methods, albeit in a more fancy and upgraded package.

However, we do not like to advocate for or against specific tech tools, preferring to focus on general best practices for using technology to teach language. One of these best practices is researching technology tools before using them to ensure that the tool and its creator align with your pedagogical approach and teaching philosophy.

Hybrid Pedagogy, a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology, thoughtfully explores the ideology of using technology in education. In a recent article about Turnitin, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel provide a useful set of questions to ask yourself about the tools you are considering for your classroom:

  1. Who owns the tool? What is the name of the company, the CEO? What are their politics? What does the tool say it does? What does it actually do?
  2. What data are we required to provide in order to use the tool (login, e-mail, birthdate, etc.)? What flexibility do we have to be anonymous, or to protect our data? Where is data housed; who owns the data? What are the implications for in-class use? Will others be able to use/copy/own our work there?
  3. How does this tool act or not act as a mediator for our pedagogies? Does the tool attempt to dictate our pedagogies? How is its design pedagogical? Or exactly not pedagogical? Does the tool offer a way that “learning can most deeply and intimately begin”?
  4. How accessible is the tool? For a blind student? For a hearing-impaired student? For a student with a learning disability? For introverts? For extroverts? Etc. What statements does the company make about accessibility?

Next time you are considering a new tool, try weighing the pedagogical benefits with the above questions. The final choice lies with you, the teacher and ultimate expert.

The above list of questions is excerpted from the article “A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the case against Turnitin“, written by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel, reviewed by Kris Shaffer and Robin Wharton, and published on Hybrid Pedagogy’s Digital Pedagogy Lab website under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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