7 Steps for Choosing the Best Technology Tools for Your Teaching

In the decade now that I have spent supporting educators in the endeavors to teach using technology, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by faculty for advice on how to choose the best technology tools for their teaching. With the seemingly endless selection of technology tools available, how do educators choose the right technology tools to incorporate into their teaching? If you are in the situation of considering a new technology tool in your teaching, here are 7 steps to take as you choose which tool may be best for you:

Step 1: Start with your objectives

It’s important to always start any conversation about technology selection with objectives. What is it that you and/or your students should be able to do? There are some great models available, such as Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy and SAMR, that can offer guidance as your craft and/or revise objectives that will form the basis for any decisions regarding technology decisions. Are you seeking to substitute, augment, modify, or redefine an existing teaching or learning activity? Make sure that it is clear from reviewing your objectives what your intended goals are.

Step 2: Survey your “tech landscape”

Once you have your goals and objectives clearly in mind, the next step is to take an inventory of your current technology use as well as look at your environment for incorporating the new technology. What tools are you and/or your students already using? What are you comfortable with? What is working? Keep in mind the adaage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and don’t discard an existing technology if it is the meeting your needs. What tools are already at your fingertips and/or perhaps provided/supported by your institution? What tools are frowned upon and/or blocked at your institution?

Step 3: Set your budget

How much are you and/or your students willing to spend on a tool? Do you need to stick with a free solution? Or, are you able to spend some money? Many tools take a “freemium” approach, meaning that they are available for use on a limited basis for free with additional features available for a fee.

Step 4: Sample available tools

Pick a few (5 or less) available options and try the tools yourself to see which you and/or your students like best, are easiest to use, and meet your needs. What are the pros & cons of each? What support is available? How does each integrate into the existing workflow and/or lesson?

Step 5: Select your tool

Eventually, you finally need to take the plunge and pick a tool to use. Don’t worry..you aren’t stuck using the tool forever 🙂 If you eventually change your mind down the road, you can always change the tool.

Step 6: Set parameters for use

Clarify for yourself and/or your students how the tool will and won’t be used. It’s at this point you may want to revisit your objectives to ensure that your plan for use meets your stated learning objectives. Are you using the right tool for the right problem?

Step 7: Scrutinize your choice

After you’ve thoroughly used the tool for a specified period of time (term, semester, etc.) reflect on your use of the tool? Did it meet your needs? What unexpected issues did you and/or your students encounter? Is it working well enough that you want to stick with it, or is it time to try something else? You’re not locked-in to continuing to use the tool if it isn’t meeting your needs.

There you have it…a seven-step approach to selecting a technology tool for your teaching. Leave a comment if you found these steps helpful or if you perhaps have additional suggestions to share with educators as they choose technology tools.

The Evolution of Educational Technology

Few things have changed in the last few centuries as much as the way we learn. Students have gone from attending one-room school houses to having the world at their fingertips in the classroom. Here’s a look at how evolving technology has impacted education.edtechevolution

Courtesy EdTechTimes

China vs. The U.S.: Meeting Students’ Technology Needs

A new survey from Dell indicates there are quite a few things the U.S. can learn from China when it comes to meeting students’ technology needs. According to the findings:

  1. China is more likely to integrate technology into all curriculum,
  2. Chinese students spend more time using technology in school, and
  3. Chinese teachers are more technologically savvy according to students

China vs. The U.S.: Meeting Students’ Technology Needs

Courtesy BrainTrack

ECAR 2012 Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology

Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) has surveyed undergraduate students annually since 2004 about technology in higher education. In 2012, ECAR collaborated with 195 institutions to collect responses from more than 100,000 students about their technology experiences. The findings are distilled into the broad thematic message for institutions and educators to balance strategic innovation with solid delivery of basic institutional services and pedagogical practices and to know students well enough to understand which innovations they value the most.

Key Findings

See the 2012 report for a full list key messages, findings, and supporting data.

  • Blended-learning environments are the norm; students say that these environments best support how they learn.
  • Students want to access academic progress information and course material via their mobile devices, and institutions deliver.
  • Technology training and skill development for students is more important than new, more, or “better” technology.
  • Students use social networks for interacting with friends more than for academic communication.


The following infographic, available here as PDF, highlights some of the key findings:

ECAR 2012 Infographic

ECAR Recommends

See the 2012 report for a full list of actionable results.

  • Look to emerging or established leaders (other institutions, other countries, other industries) for strategies to deliver instruction and curricular content to tablets and smartphones. Learn from their exemplary strategies for IT support and security with student devices as well as planning, funding, deploying, and managing instructional technologies, services, and support.
  • Prioritize the development of mobile-friendly resources and activities that students say are important: access to course websites and syllabi, course and learning management systems, and academic progress reports (i.e., grades).
  • Bridge the gap between the technologies that have seen the greatest growth (e-portfolios, e-books/e-textbooks, and web-based citation/bibliographic tools) and students’ attitudes about their importance. Focus training/skill-building opportunities for students, professional development opportunities for faculty, and support service opportunities on these emerging technologies.
  • Use e-mail and the course and learning management system for formal communication with students. Experiment with text messaging and instant messaging/online chatting, and don’t focus efforts on using social networks and telephone conversations to interact with students.

Complete study findings available here.

Envisioning the Future of Education Technology

What technology will we be using in the classroom 3, 5, or 10 years or more from now? This visualization attempts to organizing a series of emerging technologies that are likely to influence education in the coming decades.

Click here for enlarged version. Courtesy Edudemic