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Content is King: How to avoid style over substance

When it comes to Web 2.0, content is king. This cliché pops up a lot in the digital space, but was does it mean in the context of the K-12 classroom?

It means keeping your core learning objectives front and center. Making sure tech solutions support your curricular goals. Embracing the best of the web to maximize student engagement, while keeping the bells and whistles (and distractions) in check.

Subject matter matters
Unless you're teaching a technology class, the tech should be secondary to the subject at hand. That doesn't mean it's not important. When used effectively, the right web tool can dramatically enhance the lesson, and deepen student understanding of subject matter in measurable ways. You just need to be careful to stay on topic and not let the "wow" effect overshadow the academics.

Let assessment do the driving
One way to do this is to make sure content is paramount in your assessment. It's not just about how you present or share but what you present or share and what you learn during the process. This should count heavily. That way, students will know upfront where the priorities lie and put things in perspective along the way.

Older students should put themselves in the teacher's (or audience members') shoes and ask themselves:

- Does this use of technology enhance the learning? Or is it extraneous?
- Do I have a deeper understanding of this concept better now? Or am I distracted?

Analyze before you dive in
There are so many cool online tools that it's hard to know which ones to choose. Start at the Web 20.10 site to check out the range of top-pick apps. Then spend some time fiddling around with various tools to familiarize yourself with what does what. There's no need to download, and you can master many of these tools in minutes.

Then, before assigning a lesson, break it down into parts and think about what kind of tech integration makes sense. First ask if tech integration makes sense for all or part of your assignment. Are there engaging ways to enhance learning? If so, then go for it! Ask yourself: Which components are most conducive to collaboration or interactivity? How could web tools be used to engage different styles of learning, e.g., audio, visual, kinetic?

If you go with a multimedia presentation model, will you also have students supplement with a formal written essay? If not, how much text should you expect? (It's hard to display mastery of a concept with simple captions!)

Substance trumps style
There have never been so many free and easy-to-use online apps. Having too many high-quality tools at your disposal is a good problem to have. But too much choice is a time-waster and not good for anyone.

Set some limits to keep your students on task so they don't get distracted or sidetracked by the bells and whistles. You may want to set parameters on things like numbers of fonts, animation and sound effects, in order to keep the focus on the content.

Same as it ever was...
In the end it really comes down to common sense. Keep your learning objective front and center and the rest will follow. When technology is truly integrated, the tech is so routine you barely notice it's there.

Links:

Web 2.0 Tools – picks from Discovery Education

Web 2.0 Rubrics – Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators

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Presented by

  • Discovery Education
  • ISTE