A Handy Framework for Choosing Edtech
By using what an expert calls the six Cs, educators can make better decisions about classroom technology.
As educators, we are inundated with options when it comes to educational technology, and new tools are appearing on the scene all the time. Recently, I led an interactive keynote for a school district to help teachers explore how they could sift through the sea of options and determine which tools would be best. We discussed a set of “Cs” that are important to consider when making edtech decisions, and below, I share a brief summary of six of the factors.
6 Cs to Guide Your Edtech Decisions
1. Content. A common temptation with edtech is to focus on the technology first. We may want to use a tool simply because it’s new or exciting without first considering how it will help us meet our learning goals. One helpful technology integration framework is the TPACK model, by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra. This framework identifies three bodies of knowledge that are critical for educators: technological, pedagogical, and content.
Although it’s tempting to start with technology, the content we are teaching should be our guide, followed by the pedagogical strategies we will use to teach the content. Finally, we should consider which technology (if any) will be used. Thinking about technology in this order will help you ensure that the tools you choose are in the service of student learning.
2. Context. Each educator has a specific and unique context that should be taken into consideration when determining which edtech to use. It’s important to reflect on who your students are, the tools that are provided or restricted by your school/district, your current capacity to incorporate new tools, and other contextual factors.
For example, are you teaching multilingual learners? Then you might choose to use tools like Flip (formerly Flipgrid) or Keynote, which allow students to easily practice their listening and speaking skills via the built-in video and audio recording tools.
Or, are you teaching in a district that has adopted specific devices or software (e.g., iPads, Chromebooks, Microsoft 365, or Google Workspace for Education)? Consider how you can leverage the embedded features of these tools for teaching and learning. Also, if planning to incorporate additional tools, consider how well they will integrate with the devices and software you and your students have.
3. Creed. As educators, our beliefs influence our actions in the classroom. They affect our classroom management approaches, our pedagogical strategies, the ways we engage with families, the content we emphasize, and much more. This applies to educational technology as well.
For example, if you believe in the importance of collaboration in the learning process, then you might choose tools like Google Docs, Google Slides, Jamboard, or Padlet, which allow students to work together to create documents, develop presentations, and brainstorm ideas. Take the time to examine your beliefs and consider how they shape the tools you utilize.
4. Channels. Just as a geographical channel provides access for ships and other vessels, it’s important to select edtech tools that will provide access for all learners. One key factor to consider is accessibility.
For example, Google Docs has a dictation feature that turns speech into text and a feature that can translate documents from one language to another. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader streamlines the text on a page, allows users to customize the display, and reads the text aloud. In addition, Apple’s Clips has a built-in feature called Live Titles that makes it easy to create captioned videos, thus providing greater access for students who are deaf/hard of hearing and multilingual learners who would benefit from additional linguistic support.
Another important factor to consider with regard to access is representation. When choosing or designing e-learning materials, it’s important to take stock of the content and images used in order to ensure that they are inclusive and representative and do not perpetuate negative stereotypes.
5. Choice. According to Universal Design for Learning, providing students with choices can be a powerful way to tap into their interests and, ultimately, foster greater engagement in the learning process. When choosing edtech, consider which tools you can use to provide students with options in how they learn about a concept or how they demonstrate their learning.
For example, at the conclusion of a unit of study, you may give students the option to create an infographic in Canva or Google Drawings; record a podcast in GarageBand; or record a video in Clips, Flip, Edpuzzle, or iMovie.
6. Cauliflower. Cauliflower is a vegetable that has been reimagined in many different ways in recent years. From pizza crusts to Buffalo wings, it seems that there is no limit to how cauliflower can be used. Similar to how society is tapping into the versatility of cauliflower, as educators we should consider how we can take the edtech tools we already have and use them in innovative ways.
Take Keynote, for example. You can use it to create presentations, animations, flash cards, infographics, animated GIFs, narrated slide shows, interactive notebooks, multimodal assessments, collaborative activities, and so much more. Or, take Flip. You can use it for introductions, reflection activities, read-alouds, presentations, skills assessments, virtual guest speaker visits, and more! This same concept applies to many other tools as well.
For example, I recently wrote a piece for Educause Review that explores eight ways QR codes can be used in college classrooms (and many of the ideas can be adapted for K–12 settings). Making wise edtech decisions is not always about figuring out which new tools to add, but sometimes is about maximizing the potential of the tools you already have.
As a faculty developer and speaker, I have the opportunity to partner with K–12 and higher education educators as we explore the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology. One message I emphasize in my workshops is the importance of starting with just one new idea and building on it over time. My hope is that together these six Cs will help you make technology choices that promote student learning, reflect your unique context, align with your creed, promote equity, support student choice, and spark innovation.