As a first-time GSI you may not need to make decisions about the use of instructional technology (IT). However, as you develop your own course and materials later on, you will need to evaluate and choose from different modes of content delivery and learning activities. How to decide?

Experience is one place to start. What kinds of instructional technology have you seen in use in your field? What made them effective — the instructor’s skills, or the fit between IT and the material, or the consistency between using the IT and the learning goals? On the other hand, what drawbacks did you observe? What difficulties arose?

Was the particular kind of IT you’re thinking about using more effective for facilitating a unidirectional presentation, or did it help students participate in their own learning? How would it fit in with the learning goals for your course, the ways student learning will be evaluated, and the ways students will need to use the knowledge they’re gaining as graduates and professionals? In what ways would the technology help you do your job more effectively and efficiently?

Recommendations and Issues to consider

Since software and systems can require a large front-end investment of time, both to learn how to use a tool and to prepare specific instructional materials, it’s wise to gather some information and consider your objectives before you begin.

  • Start from the course objectives and ask if and how technology can be used to promote those objectives. In particular, does a technology you are considering lend itself to the kinds of cognitive processing students need to practice, such as remembering facts, applying principles or paradigms to new situations, analysis, evaluation, or creativity? Does it help students do the kinds of activities they need to do to complete projects, such as note-taking, writing, problem-solving, or collaboration?
  • Does it allow you to take advantage of multiple modes of presentation and interaction, for example visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic? Having multiple ways to experience material generally deepens student learning.
  • Consider both digital and non-digital options. You need not assume either that a particular teaching method must be better simply because it employs more technology, or that a technology will be too hard or unwieldy to use in your course.
  • Take into account your own capacities. If you are not comfortable using the technology or do not feel that you can become comfortable, then you may not be able to use it to its best pedagogical advantage.
  • Familiarize yourself with any technology that you propose to use. Ask yourself whether your students will already be familiar enough with the technology to operate it themselves (if necessary), and, if not, whether it is reasonable to expect them to learn how to use it for the purposes of your course.
  • Survey students about their familiarity with and access to the tools you are considering using. Make sure that all students have fair and adequate access to the technology required for the course.
  • Determine how you are going to get feedback on the pedagogical and logistical success of your use of technology.
  • Become familiar with the technology resources on campus. Publicize the hours and locations of campus computer labs or other facilities, in the event that some students do not have either the right kinds of computers or appropriate software for personal use.
  • Balance face-to-face interaction with students against the use of technology-based instruction.
  • Be sure that students have resources to help them understand the technology. These might include online tutorials, manuals, or a discussion board for posting questions and answers.
  • Identify students who may have higher levels of technological expertise, and enlist them to help other students, if possible.

For the Visually Oriented GSI

A process similar to that provided above is available in a step-by-step worksheet:

Technology Brainstorming Worksheet (pdf)