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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Education
September 25, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Using Everyday Technologies to Enhance Learning

by M. Kristiina Montero

Dr. M. Kristiina Montero

Technology has the potential to enhance learning in many different ways. It can engage students (e.g., composing on a computer vs. using pencil and paper), facilitate access to and disseminate knowledge (e.g., view the Japanese countryside using Google’s Street View or publishing students’ writing on a Blog), and provide students opportunities to assume the role of expert (e.g., show a teacher how to create an iMovie or decorate digital photos with clipart). Technologies available for instructional use abound; however, many never find their way into instruction because they are expensive, perceived to be difficult to use or otherwise inaccessible. 

In my courses at the Faculty of Education, I aim to teach preservice teachers how to be creative and enhance student learning, as well as their own, using accessible, inexpensive digital technologies used in everyday life, for example digital cameras and PowerPoint. Grounded in the principles of language experience approach (LEA), a method used in reading instruction for over a century, which relies on creating written texts using a student’s own vocabulary, language patterns, and background experiences, I invite TECs to engage in Digital-LEA activities in the course that focuses on Teaching for Equity and Diversity.
 In the activity, TECs send a disposable camera home with a student with the instructions to take “photographs of important things in your out-of-school life.” Using the digitally rendered photographs TECs and their focal students co-create multimedia stories or photographic essays in PowerPoint (see example of PowerPoint slide below). Students’ parents are invited to partake in the activity by helping their children take photographs and to help interpret/narrate the visual texts.  TECs then engage their students in literacy-related follow-up activities such as shared reading. TECs also engage in reflection activities to address sociocultural biases and subjectivities, and their potential influences on teaching diverse students in the classroom. 

D-LEA enhances learning for both TECs and students. TECs gain insight into students’ literacy development and their out-of-school learning experiences that may influence instruction; students gain confidence as  language users and cultural beings, increase their productive vocabulary, and increase awareness and knowledge about the relationship between oral and written language and visual text, among other benefits.
 Integrating technology into instruction doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive—just creative. Everyday technologies can be used to enhance learning for all members of the school community.

Example PowerPoint slide: