Digital Tools In the Classroom: A Low, Low-Tech Approach

As citizens of the twenty-first century, we are no strangers to technology: from smart phones to social media to texting, we are thoroughly immersed in technology and navigate it daily. In spite of this, the thought of incorporating “technology” into my classroom originally filled me dread. I struggled to think of how exactly I could meaningfully transfer those daily digital experiences into the writing classroom. I assumed that I needed either specialist technical knowledge or a willingness to completely and utterly rewrite my pedagogy in order to successfully incorporate digital tools in my classroom.

Thankfully, I was wrong in both of my assumptions—incorporating technology requires neither specialist knowledge nor a complete overhaul of our teaching methods. Here are a couple of very low-tech strategies that even the most resistant luddite would find approachable:

Multimedia Texts: One of the most effective ways of incorporating technology into the writing classroom is to present students with multimedia texts. This can be as simple as showing a video clip in class and asking students to respond in writing before opening up to a class discussion. I’ve found that students are especially interested in dissecting and discussing these texts, in part because they feel more comfortable with them and therefore more confident; students may not feel like they are qualified to comment on a piece of literature, but they do feel proficient enough to discuss a music video or clip from a TV show.

Course Blogs: Course blogs are another great, low-tech method of engaging with a technological platform in the classroom. Students are already familiar with utilizing technology like social media and messaging apps in their personal lives, so the introduction of a course blog should be fairly natural. One great advantage of class blogs is that they can serve as an opportunity for low-stakes, informal writing that can be easily shared with the rest of the class. If class discussion begins to lag, an easy way to revive it is to ask students to share what they wrote for their blog post. The fact that they’ve written it already and are not being forced to think of a response on the spot makes students more willing to share and discuss (likewise, this strategy works to elicit discussion from shyer, less talkative students). There are countless ways to incorporate and utilize blogs, but some of the methods I’ve had the most success with are:

  • Require students to write a short blog post every week (or have them sign up for particular days) responding to the assigned reading
  • Provide prompts related to the course material that students must respond to on the blog before coming into class that day
  • Ask students to select and post a multimedia text (a song, music video, clip from a film, etc.) and analyze it in a blog post.
  • Require every student to comment on at least one post a week (this is an especially useful strategy, as it forces students to read and engage with each other’s writing)

 

This sort of digital interaction inside and outside the classroom can promote active learning, a core WAC principle that refers to teaching methods that encourage students to participate in their learning experience through non-traditional, multimodal activities. Active learning seeks to move away from (or at the very least, supplement) traditional “passive” learning methods like lecturing with more hands-on activities—like the low-tech suggestions mentioned above. Responding to multimedia texts or participating in a discussion on a course blog can enhance students’ learning experience and promote a deeper understanding of the course material. By incorporating even a small amount of technology in our classrooms, we can enliven the learning process and get students more involved with course content.