With the transition to remote, online, and hybrid learning due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in the amount of technology in education. Technology has been used to bridge the gap between different COVID-19 constraints and the need to keep business as usual, in all parts of life.
People are using video conferencing to communicate with each other, participate in professional development, and even teach their classes. Learning management systems (LMSs) are used to guide learners and keep families organized with class requirements. Trips to the gym have turned into fitness apps, and constant emails keep many up around the clock. With the surge to remain functioning during these unusual times, technology has taken center-stage for better or for worse. However, with technology creeping into every aspect of life, how do we reduce the technology load and reduce technology burnout?
Though many apps and programs might make different tasks easier, they can soon snowball and present new issues—like technology burnout. With the goal of keeping education moving forward, schools are pushing the use of different apps and programs. However, this puts an increased stress on teachers who need to use the products, parents who have to keep track of these programs, and students who are trying to stay afloat.
Educational technology is well-intentioned, often increases access, and has many great benefits; however, these can also create technology burnout and technology overload. Of course, we can’t stop using technology and move to physical grammar packets. The goal of this blog is to help educators reflect on the technology that they are using and the technology that their students (and their families) are being asked to use. When everyone is on overload, balancing the many moving aspects of life during COVID-19, we have to be strategic and thoughtful about all technology use. Even with the best intentions, we have to focus on impact.
Here are three tips to help you reduce your technology load:
1. Take Stock of All Technology Used in Your Class
There are many ways for technology to come into the classroom. Some classes use an LMS to keep the course organized online. Other classes use different quizzing and game apps to bring learning to life. In staff meetings and at professional development sessions, technology is often presented as an opportunity for educators to spice up their classes. With every best intention, these programs and apps soon are piloted or become a regular part of the classroom. However, often without thinking about it, we’re soon using many different forms of technology at once.
Now, especially with the increase in online and remote classes, technology is used to communicate with students, teach students, contact families, and everything in-between. But do we know just how much technology we are requiring in our classes? Recently, I made a list of every application that my students need to know for our class. I wrote down apps we use, our LMS, word processing, and many other items that support our learning. I began to ask myself: How much is too much?
This is an activity that I would encourage every educator to do. Make a list of the technology that you use and really reflect on it. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it possible for my students to be successful learning all of this technology in addition to the actual course content?
- Do any of these apps/tools do the same thing as another?
- What is the learning purpose for each tool? Is there any overlap?
- Are my students using any of these tools in other classrooms or with other teachers?
- Does each tech tool contribute to my course objectives?
Now, you might decide to take out a pen and start crossing applications off the list. Or, you might decide that you have room for more. Regardless of where you fall, it is important that we are both cognizant of and intentional about each technology decision we make.
2. Provide Balance in Asynchronous Work for Students
Right now, everyone is on overload. We are working too much, we never seem to have enough time, and we have no work-life balance. This is the same for our students and their families. Our schedules are turned upside down, and our sense of normalcy is off. Though technology can be a great resource to keep things moving and organized, it can still lead to burnout. Even people who love technology the most can feel like they just have too much. People want to unplug and disconnect for a little while. However, this “unplugging” can also feel bad. Maybe we question if we are doing enough or if work is getting done. However, the intentional act of reducing technology at least for a little while each day can help us to regain a sense of control.
Hence, as we think about asynchronous work for students to do on their own, we should ask ourselves what has to be done online or on a computer and what could be done the old-fashioned way. Do all assignments have to be typed? Do we really need students to sit at a computer all day? Is there a way for them to complete assignments on paper and send in pictures? Can we assign tasks that require students to go outside or practice self-care? Though every school and every program has different requirements for teachers and students, we have to ask ourselves: Just how much room can I give my students to breathe?
3. Check in With Students and Families
Lastly, everyone has been in a constant flux. Things change on a whim. It seems like every week is the same while everything is also different. It is a perpetual “Groundhog Day.” As we find new ways to complete work with students and create exciting lessons, technology can be a helper and a hindrance to this work. Sometimes, the most well-intentioned lesson using technology could backfire for unexpected reasons.
To avoid this, we have to communicate. We have to find ways to check in with students and their families. We need to see what is working and what is not working. While this adds more on our shoulders in uncertain times, even the smallest changes can have a huge impact on our students and their learning. If they need more technology, we can find new ways to include it in our classes. If people need a break from technology or to streamline what is required, we can do that, too. As educators, we are constantly adapting to moving tides.
Technology is a great asset in the world. It has opened many doors and new opportunities for teaching and learning. However, educational technology is never more important than the education. Teaching and learning have to take the forefront and cannot live in the shadow of technology. During COVID-19, we need to be mindful of the technology we use and require our students to use. This will help us to keep teaching and learning moving even in the most uncertain of times.