In February 2009—approximately 3.5 years ago in “internet time”—Jeremy Boggs wrote a blog post that has stuck with me ever since. In “Three Roles for Teachers using Technology,” Boggs succinctly expresses three roles we should play if we want to achieve success when implementing technology in the classroom: role model, tech support, and cheerleader. After reading his post, I recalled the successes and failures of technology in the classroom—other instructors’ successes and failures as well as my own—and realized Boggs is exactly right: balancing those roles is the key to success.
- Being a role model for your students shows that you value the technology as well as the short-term and long-term benefits of its use. When students leave the classroom, will they have increased their technical literacy and be in a position “to be more critical about their use of technology,” as Boggs says? Or will your students walk away thinking “What was the point of that?”
- Acting as tech support, or even being able to act as tech support, goes along with being a role model. Being able to help your students with their technical problems shows that you are invested in that particular technology, see its importance in general, and understand the role it plays in student outcomes. Embracing the role of “help desk” can be a teaching moment as well: teach the students how to ask good questions and that it is ok to “play” to find an answer.
- Boggs considers the role of cheerleader to be the most important and I tend to agree, just as I agree that students are not as tech savvy as the media would like us to believe. Do not expect students to know anything about the technologies you introduce in the classroom; just because your students can text like fiends does not mean they grok Twitter. Be patient, and be supportive.
It should go without saying that when you introduce technology into your pedagogy you should already know the reasons for doing so, how you see technology supporting the objectives of the course, and to what extent you are able to play these three roles as well as the “content expert” for your class. But I think we have all seen instances in which that was not the case—when blogging is introduced solely for the sake of saving paper and not for the benefits that come from writing for a public audience or receiving feedback from known and unknown readers (just to name a few of the many benefits), or when an instructor says “I don’t use X, and don’t really see the value in it, but I’m going to make you spend the next week working with X and talking about it.” Those scenarios are both recipes for disaster.
One of the goals of Prof. Hacker is to help readers enhance their productivity both inside and outside the classroom by providing technical and pedagogical tips—both for those fully immersed in teaching with technology as well as those who are simply curious and who are thinking ahead to classes they will teach in the future.
Especially if you are someone just beginning to think about implementing technology in the classroom, but even if you are a technology veteran, contact Jason or George with topics you’d like to see covered in future Prof. Hacker posts—technical questions, software recommendations, or more on exactly how we balance being a role model, tech support, and cheerleader when using technology in the classroom.