Incorporating technology into teaching should focus on providing high-quality learning experiences for students, not just adding the latest tech fad to your teaching toolbox.

That was one of the messages shared by Sidneyeve Matrix, PhD, keynote speaker at the 7th annual Celebration of Teaching, Learning and Scholarship in Health Sciences Education. Sponsored by the Office of Health Sciences Education, the theme of the one-day conference was “Learning Together: Relationships in Health Sciences Education.”

Sidneyeve Matrix
Sidneyeve Matrix

Matrix, a Queen’s National Scholar and Associate Professor with the Department of Film and Media, Faculty of Arts and Science, addressed the topic of High-Engagement and High-Tech Teaching and Learning Experiences, by Design.

Although most of today’s students have grown up with technology, they’re not all the tech experts some may expect. They have surface knowledge of technology they use, but not necessarily a broad range of skills. And while students may not have deep digital competencies, they expect faculty to have them, Matrix said.

The first step to enhancing teaching with technology is addressing the faculty tech-skills gap through faculty professional development, Matrix suggested. This, she acknowledged, may be easier said than done: the biggest barrier to tech adoption by both students and faculty is time.

So, why bother with educational technologies? The payoff in student learning has been studied: teaching with edtech and social media improves student outcomes by 10 percent. And what about the distraction factor? Another study Matrix cited revealed students with smartphones study 40 extra minutes per week versus those without them.

Choice abundance in online tools
Screenshot from Dr. Matrix’s presentation

Matrix advised faculty interested in incorporating more technology in their teaching to seek out innovators within their own departments and schools: approach these people to find out what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. She said blended learning teams should include ITS consultants, instructional designers and faculty peer mentors. Key messages: don’t go it alone and don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel.

And, she emphasized, focusing on students’ learning experiences—not the technology—is the key to success. Like all good teaching, teaching with technology should focus on excellence and engagement, not just adding in a tech tool or two – or 20.

While there’s “choice abundance” in online tools for teaching—Matrix pointed out there are over 2000, producing “choice fatigue”—too much technology can turn a good course into a “Frankencourse”, producing frustration for all concerned and lower student learning outcomes.

Incremental innovation silde
Screenshot from Dr. Matrix’s presentation

Matrix also advocates incremental innovation, pointing to her own Film240 Media and Culture course: its first iteration in 2007 had 75 students; by 2009 it had 500 students and a social media component. In 2011 she added a new online section, mobile app and webinars and boosted enrolment to 1000. The 2013 class had 1400 students, e-flashcards, podcasts, eBook, self-quizzes and lectures available on demand. Her point: she didn’t do it all in one term, or even one year.

One technology-assisted assignment Matrix showcased in her presentation was infographic digital posters, used as an alternative to a research essay assignment. These are shared via the course Learning Management System (LMS) for peer-to-peer inspiration and feedback. Students can use Piktochart to create their assignment.

These aren’t just pretty posters, but well-researched assignments presented in a visually-appealing, accessible way. “It’s visual storytelling with research narratives,” she said.

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What’s your favourite tech teaching tool? Let us know what it is and why it works for you by sharing in the comments.

If you’re interested in tech teaching training, let us know what topics are of interest to you. We’ll incorporate these requests in our future UGME faculty development planning.

Find the full slidedeck from Dr. Matrix’s presentation here. You can find more  on trends in digital culture, communication and commerce, with emphasis on social, mobile, and educational technology at her Cyberpop! blog.