Rebecca Schuman’s article in Slate (2014) serves as a good reminder that while educational technology can be great for students and instructors, it’s worth stopping to consider whether it’s actually helping or getting in the way of your learning objectives. One example she gives is asking students to blog in a literature course vs. asking students to keep a journal in the same course – the professor who asked students to blog ended up having to do lots of tech support, and computer-related frustrations rather than the novel became the students’ focus.
In my biology 11 class, students are asked to make a plant collection (i.e. take pictures of native plants, identify them and include a few basic facts about each one). The old-school way to do this is with actual pressed plants, which I discourage because the easiest place to find native plants is in our various parks and collecting plants in a park is a no-no… but I give students the option of handing in a physical photo album, making a ppt file, a Flickr album, a Pinterest page or an Instagram feed – as long as the photos and required information are all present. This way I’m embracing the technology but not insisting on it, so it doesn’t become a barrier to what I really want students to do – learn to identify some native plants!