Get Backward on Technology

These days there’s always some new technology, something new and shiny, to bring into the classroom. But “new” and “shiny” are not, in themselves, good reasons to adopt a new technology in your classroom; nor are they good reasons to reject it.

Whether we’re talking about a virtual reality headset, a collaborative online game, the ability to bring an outside expert to class through web conferencing, the latest course management system, or any of the countless other advances to consider, we need a good pedagogical reason to take it on.

And so: what if you approached technology with the same principles of backward design that can inform your overall course design? In other words, you could start with your course goals and then look to see whether there are any technologies out there that would help you meet those goals.

For example, maybe you want to free up more class time for active learning; using lecture capture would allow students to access material outside class and come in ready to apply their learning. If you’re dealing with sensitive material and you want to know what students are really thinking during a charged conversation, you can conduct anonymous polls through clickers or Poll Everywhere. Or, maybe you want to make it easier and quicker for you and others to comment on student writing while it’s still in draft form; Google Docs would allow you and fellow students to have electronic access to the drafts, plus the ability to comment directly—and even to comment on other commenters’ comments!

Find still more ideas on the Teaching Commons’ Teaching with Technologies page. You’ll also see videos of Georgetown faculty recounting their experiences using technology to assist them in their teaching—and an opportunity, at the bottom of the page, to share your own!

And, as always, reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help!


This spring, we’re using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commons, a compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’re showcasing tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on crafting a syllabus, starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learningdesigning assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.