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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

As the end of the year draws closer, it is important for all teachers to start evaluating how things went. One part of this evaluation should be the use of technology. Much as a teacher will look back on the lessons that worked and did not work, it is just as valuable to look back on the technology tools that were effective and ineffective. As teachers, it's important to try bettering our craft, and reflection is one of the best ways to do this. Here are five steps to help make the technology reflection a bit smoother.

1) What Tools Did You Use?

Take a look at the technology tools you used this year. How many did you incorporate into your lessons for student use, and how many did you use for your benefit alone? It's important to make a list and really look at the tools utilized. You might be surprised at how much technology you actually use throughout the year.

2) How Did You Use These Tools?

The next step is to look at how you used these tools throughout the year. Were they tools that allowed students to present information? Were they tools that helped you become more organized? What role in your classroom did the tool fill for you and for the students?

3) Was the Tool Effective in What You Wanted to Accomplish?

Next, you have to decide how effective the tools were. This is a great time to talk to your students about technology and ask them how the tools used in class impacted their learning. Your view on the success of a tool is important, but the view of the students can really be different from yours. Take note of all of the things that worked as well as what didn't work. Then decide if the parts that didn't work had to do with the tool or the user (that would be you).

4) What Tools Could Be Removed or Replaced?

After creating your list, see if there are any tools that can be removed or replaced. It may be hard to stop partway through a lesson or unit to find a new tool, but if you're using a tool that doesn't meet your needs, there's no point sticking with it. The only reason to try again with the same tool is if you feel the faults were with your implementation and not the tool itself. If that's the case, see what happens next time.

5) What Are Your Goals for Next Year?

Create a short list of goals for yourself next year. They can be small goals like converting a traditional paper assignment into a web-based one, or something large like having students create a multimedia project using various Web 2.0 tools. Whatever the goals are, it's nice to have them; they'll make the evaluation process at the end of the next year even smoother.

As teachers, it's important to take stock of what we do every day in an effort to become better teachers. If we do not evaluate the tools we use, we run the chance of shortchanging ourselves -- and our students. Reflecting on our practice is the best way to ensure continuous growth and life-long learning.

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