A “Modest” Case for Teaching with Technology

A photo of an iPhone on a desktop with a 3D simulation of a castle popping out.

There’s a lot of hype out there about how technology will drastically improve formal education or lead to its demise. This sort of hype is nothing new, however educator and historian, Cathy Davidson, makes a strong case for why technology should impact teaching and learning:

“The Internet has changed the ways we live, work, learn and pay attention. But we are still teaching our kids as if the Internet has not changed our lives. We’re still teaching like it is 1992. We have to transform education for our Internet era just as the Industrial Age changed it over one hundred years ago.” (2013)

Teaching with technology is not about the latest technology application, but how to utilize the tools in a way that makes sense in your classroom using your instructional methodology. Used effectively, technology allows for effective classroom management and engaging instructional delivery and learning. In this article, we identify three important factors for evaluating the appropriateness of educational technologies and share an approach that can make the process less overwhelming and intimidating.

Evaluating Educational Technologies

Before we plunge into the wide world of educational technology, let’s take a few moments to consider some important factors regarding the effective use of technology in the university classroom (whether face-to-face or virtual):

  • Student ability and accessibility – While today’s generation of students are often referred to as “digital natives,” this may not be true of all students. Such factors as age, experience, and socioeconomic status can have a significant impact on not only student access to the Internet and digital tools, but also how they use these tools. The information literacy needed to effectively negotiate the Internet is still an undeveloped skill in many students. Try not to make assumptions about students’ abilities and familiarity with technology.
  • Copyright – Because of the vast availability of information via the Internet, students and instructors alike struggle with copyright issues. While instructors are versed in scholarly citation, they may be less familiar with what they can and cannot take from the web for use in their classes. Use this webpage as a guide for determining copyright.
  • Privacy – While learning management systems are self-contained, they often prevent students from sharing their work with a larger public (which can help students see class projects as more relevant). However, many free digital tools collect user data for a variety of reasons. For some students, this may be an issue. Consider privacy issues when determining what tools you intend to use and be willing to discuss these issues and concerns with students. FERPA and university guidelines can help you in navigating this issue.
  • Administrative access – Some UNT computers may not allow instructors or students to download certain tools.
  • Bandwidth – The amount of data that can be carried from one point to another, varies based on the tool. Some computers may not be as equipped as others.
  • Compatibility – Some educational technology apps may only be accessible to those with certain branded devices. Keep this in mind as you select tools.

The Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research consultants are readily available to assist with this process. You can also be assured that UNT supported technologies have been vetted for these issues.

For a comprehensive checklist for evaluating educational technologies, see our article Selecting Educational Technologies: A Checklist.

Using Educational Technology: “The Modest Approach”

Implementing new technologies in the university classroom can be overwhelming. Susan Ko, the faculty development director for The City University of New York School of Professional Studies, has a helpful approach to implementing technology in the classroom – what she calls the “modest approach.” Ko (2014) explains:

"I take a very modest approach to this [implementing technology in the university classroom]. I don't really worry about faculty who are early adopters, those who are always trying out new technologies. For the other faculty, I say, 'Just try one new thing.' See if it helps achieve a specific goal. If it does, integrate it well. If instead an instructor tries several new things in one course, not only does the instructor not have the time to really integrate these technologies, but they will be overwhelming for the students, too."

She identifies six steps to the "modest approach”:

  1. Be open to new ideas.
  2. Find out how other faculty are using the technology.
  3. Take the time to reflect and plan. How will you really use this technology? Will your students benefit from it? Will certain of your students benefit from it, and not others?
  4. Try the technology yourself.
  5. Try it with students, and observe how they react.
  6. In the next course, adjust your design as needed.

In conclusion, Ko recommends: "Learn it, practice it, review it, revise.”


Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research. (2016). Teaching Resources for Engaged Educators [online training modules]. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.

Davidson, C. (2013, Aug. 27). TODAY: Why Are We Teaching Like It’s 1992? Cathy N. Davidson (author’s website). Retrieved from https://www.cathydavidson.com/in-the-news/today-why-are-we-teaching-likes-its-1992/

Fusch, D. (2014, Jan. 9). Help Your Faculty Manage Online Workload. Academic Impressions. Retrieved from http://www.academicimpressions.com/news/help-your-faculty-manage-online-workload?awp=0&qq=25120a404020kS1001