DA op-ed: Knowing your ‘why’ for tech implementations

Advice and tips from edtech leaders
By: | August 19, 2019

When deciding to introduce new classroom technology, educators must address its effectiveness and return on investment. But first, they must understand why they are bringing the new technology into the classroom.
We asked a number of edtech leaders to explain their thought processes when implementing new classroom technology.

Look beyond the bells and whistles

Alicia Tanpreet Johal

Alicia Tanpreet Johal (@AliciaJohal) is an equity warrior who cultivates inclusive science and engineering programs for K-12 students in San Diego. As assistant director at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking at the San Diego Jewish Academy, she is passionate about using experiential learning, robotics and metacognition to inspire each student’s creativity and voice.
“Educators are swimming deep in the ocean of educational technology,” says Johal. “While new tech tools often provide oohs and aahs at first glance, it is important that we think about why we are using them with both equity and learning in mind. We can do this by asking questions before and after we embed technology into our activities.” Johal suggested starting with these questions:

  • What can my students already do?
  • What does each student need?
  • How can technology help me support each student’s learning and growth?

She then recommends that educators reflect on each tech-embedded lesson by asking the following questions:

  • Were there implications during learning?
  • Did the content or skill become more accessible?
  • How do I know if the technology helped or hurt the learning process?

“Keep swimming in the edtech ocean, but don’t forget to pause and ask why,” says Johal

Knowing your ‘why’ enables you to have a clear vision for technology usage and gives you the opportunity to consider obstacles of technology usage, such as the digital divide, digital equity, inclusion and digital citizenship. 

Check in with students

Santi Khairassame

After a stint as a DJ in New York City, Santi Khairassame (@projectrecess) helped start a school; built a digital portfolio app; and founded Project Recess, a consultancy focused on tech and equity.

“The Harvard Business Review published ‘Implementing New Technology,’ an article that complements the idea of asking ‘why’ by asking ‘what’—specifically, asking your students what their experiences are,” says Khairassame.

“This underscores the importance of the check-in. Are we offering our students opportunities to share what they found frustrating or rewarding in their use of the tech?

“This can lead to insights and questions such as: Is this tool actually supporting my ‘why,’ or are there aspects of my student’s background that I’ve overlooked and are hindering them in this process?

“And here’s the kicker—that Harvard Business Review article was published in 1985. More than 30 years later, this idea of having a thoughtful check-in with your students is not a groundbreaking discovery, but a timeless approach of which we sometimes need to be reminded.”

The power of being connected

Toutoule Ntoya

Toutoule Ntoya (@toutoulentoya) is a consultant and instructional coach with a passion for all things STEM and/or STEAM and for student-athletes. Ntoya has taught just about every science subject and has experience as an administrator. Currently, he works with various schools on authentic STEM and/or STEAM integration.

“Are you thinking about your ‘why’ for selecting a technology tool?” asks Ntoya. “What if you could interact with a variety of educators around the world to help you solve complex challenges and implement new practices in your classroom?

“The answers to most of your classroom challenges and more are at your fingertips through connecting with other educators online. Some of the best classroom collaborations and ideas I’ve ever had came as a result of being connected.

“Tech tools including Twitter and Voxer allow for unlimited interactions with like-minded professionals across the globe. When thinking about ways to push your practice to the next level using tech, consider why being a connected educator can facilitate your professional growth. Message me on Twitter, and let’s talk about why being connected might be an appropriate use of technology for you.”

Video as the great equalizer

Award-winning educator, speaker and writer Jason Trinh (@jasontries) is a teacher-coach hybrid in the Toronto District School Board. He is passionate about edtech, equity and creatively solving problems through inquiry and innovation.

“When considering your ‘why’ for selecting a technology tool, [the tool] should be accessible and promote agency,” says Trinh. “For example, screen recording allows educators to meet the needs of all of their learners. Although many students have mobile devices to record video, those devices may not be permitted in the classroom, while other students may not have access to a device.

“Using educational devices including Chromebooks or iPads, students [especially those with anxiety] can record themselves doing a presentation, narrating their slides or speaking directly into the webcam.

“As an educator, I record my lessons or FAQ videos that students can pause and watch again. Students who require more processing time can revisit the lesson, or a screen recording can be shared with the class while I work individually with students who require more support.”

Have a clear vision

Desiree Alexander

Desiree Alexander is an award-winning educator with multiple degrees. She empowers educators to discover and amplify the intrinsic desire to become innovators in education. She is the regional director of north Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana and is the founder and CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting LLC.

“If you cannot answer ‘why’ you are using technology, then why are you using it?” asks Alexander. “That should be a foundational and fundamental question that is asked every single time technology is used in the classroom. Knowing your ‘why’ enables you to have a clear vision for technology usage, which prepares you to hit deeper levels on the SAMR [substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition] model through innovative uses of technology. Also, knowing your ‘why’ gives you the opportunity to consider obstacles of technology usage, such as the digital divide, digital equity, inclusion and digital citizenship.

“These considerations are critical when developing an action plan for using technology because they focus on equity and inclusion for all students and on keeping students safe while using technology to learn. It all starts with you knowing your ‘why.’”

Desiree Alexander (@educatoralex) is the regional director of north Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana and is the founder and CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting LLC. She will be a featured speaker at DA’s FETC 2020.


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