The Technology-Based, Remote Classroom: Learning Drives Instructional Technology Decisions

In times that remote learning must rise to the forefront of the national education reform conversation, note that technology should never be used to isolate children at an endpoint (a device) to learn for hours on a question-response application. Technology should be leveraged to create opportunities for collaboration. Learning is social, no matter where it takes place. The scaffolding of deep understanding of concepts relies on the generation of ideas, the infusion of wisdom from other learners to light up new thought processes that lead to new pathways, and a new perspective. Remote learning is an opportunity to infuse technology into the curriculum.

Flipping your classroom into a technology-based environment instead of a physical one can feel daunting. However, if you can turn on a computer and compose an e-mail, you can flip your classroom with a few simple apps and some tapping on your keyboard. It’s not about the applications or the online sites – it’s about creating learning tasks that continue the curriculum. Understandably, it is an adjustment if you do not already use technology models as a curriculum delivery and learning task tool. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Lean on technology you already know how to use. If you work for a Google School, and you are feeling brave, dive into some of the apps available to your organization. If not, stick to the sharing features you're familiar with on your go-to, daily use Google Apps.

2. Think on the level of replacement. Consider the routines you have in your physical classroom. How can you reproduce your regular learning tasks with tasks that can be shared through technology? For example, I cannot provide worksheets, but I can create and share a Google Doc via e-mail or by posting a link. I cannot group my students physically, but I can ask them to engage in an online conversation over several days, either in online writing, or by video. I cannot see my students physically, but I can create opportunities to video chat live or post videos they can watch on their own schedule. I can even share my screen during a video chat. I cannot collect and scan quizzes, but I can gather formative data using tools like Google Forms or the conversations I have with students via video chats or e-mail messages. I cannot hold a physical education class in the gym, but I can record some exercises or fitness challenges to keep my learners moving. Allow your traditional instructional tasks to do their job in giving learners the experiences needed to grow. But figure out how to replace those traditional paper-based items with items that can be accessed via technology.

3. Avoid relying on automated applications that isolate learners while supposedly personalizing learning to individual needs. Learning will be derailed if we rely on automation and isolation. Never believe that these items can transfer to learner independence in the learning standards and outcomes. Such applications, and especially those that charge for a subscription, are not human teachers. They cannot scaffold to student needs in the moment or address misconceptions. They cannot develop a depth of knowledge or create collaboration. While students may perform well on an application when they spend a lot of time using it, this does not transfer to a learner’s ability to think independently and to use concepts learned to push beyond the limits of their previous understanding. Isolation and clicking through questions and answers will not generate independent thinkers and problem solvers.

4. Remember, as you gradually place your lessons into an environment that is accessed through a screen, that human empathy and understanding, relationships and connections, support the social components of learning in any environment. When using technology in instruction, it is the learning that should drive the technology and not the technology that should drive the learning. This means that the human presence of the teacher still plays an important role in learning.

Instruction should never exist to support technology. Rather, technology is a tool to support instruction. Infusion of technology into the existing curriculum can make for dynamic changes over time that impact student learning and exposure to skills that will be needed in college and career. Instructional outcomes determine the type of task a teacher designs within a lesson. This holds true when technology is present in the instructional program, as it is in remote learning. Here are some simple tasks and apps that support these tasks in a remote learning environment. This list is for those beginning their journey with remote learning via technology and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of available apps.

We welcome your feedback and comments. If you are looking for ways to enhance your curriculum by infusing technology into the learning program, we can help. Contact Emily Erickson-Betz here at or on Twitter @emilybetz.

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