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Three roles faculty have when incorporating technology into their course

Are you an instructor using technology in your classroom? Well, there are three roles that you should be taking as the instructor… Role model, tech support, and cheerleader!

Instructor as role model

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Any faculty member who is using technology in (or out) of class has the opportunity to become a role model for students in using particular technologies. This role allows you to demonstrate responsible and academically beneficial ways of incorporating technology into your students professional and personal lives.

Whenever I’m teaching a class, I immediately introduce my students to all of the different ways to witness my digital (and technological) presence. That means, giving out my Twitter handle, blog address, personal webpage, and class blog. Some faculty even invite students to connect with them on Linkedin, or friend them on Facebook. This then gives you the opportunity to interact with your students beyond class time (and beyond the semester), and continually model the benefits of using technology in an academic and professional context.

So if your class is examining Twitter as a journalistic tool, consider creating your own Twitter account, and invite your students to follow you and each other. This way, you have the opportunity to model using Twitter beyond your students existing capabilities. (Yes, Twitter can be used for more than sharing pictures of food and organizing a weekend party!)

Ditto for blogs and digital storytelling. If you ask your students to create DSTs, why not create one yourself? Not only does this allow you to model what an acceptable course project should accomplish, it has the added benefit of exposing you to the workload your students will experience throughout the semester. Your students will appreciate your effort!

Instructor as tech support

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This is the role that faculty often have the most difficulty accepting. Don’t worry, this faculty role will not put ITS out of a job. There will always be new technology coming over the horizon to keep them busy. We as instructors should have just enough training so that we can handle any initial difficulties (or questions) our students experience while taking our classes.

Using blogs as an example here. If a student wants to incorporate a YouTube video into the course website, it is very beneficial if you are able to tackle that question right in class (or over email), so that you can immediately tap into that student’s excitement and energy for sharing that YouTube clip with her fellow students (and you).

The alternative is the student having to wait a day or two to hear back from ITS, who may only be able to offer a general response because they to not know the particulars of your course. By that time, the student may have already moved on to a project that is not as pedagogically relevant to the course, but was easier to share.

This has the added benefit of adding a sense of legitimacy and authenticity to your teaching from your students’ perspective. “Oh my gosh! My professor actually knows what she’s talking about when it comes to this technology!” This concept ties into the idea of role modeling.

Instructor as cheerleader

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This is one of the most important roles an instructor has when incorporating any technology into their course! It all starts by devoting in-class time to the assignment that utilizes the technology. To many students, if something doesn’t happen within the physical confines of the classroom, the activity isn’t as valuable. The #1 misconception of technology-enhanced teaching, is that the physical classroom is the only space that learning happens. Online work is too often perceived as busy work. (Hopefully by the end of the semester you have broken this incorrect hypotheses.)

By devoting class time to showcase the course blog, student video projects, recorded interviews, forum discussions, etc., it adds that sense of legitimacy students recognize as a valuable learning experience. It also has the added benefit of enabling you to provide instant feedback to your students, and shape the future direction of the class project.

This post is part of a series relating to TRC’s theme, “Face-to-Face Education in the Digital Age”.

<– Read the previous post, “Engaging Students Through Their Laptops”.

About the author: Matthew Trevett-Smith, TRC Assistant Director & Assistant Professor

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