How Technology Creates A Better Learning Environment

Technology excels at doing mundane, repetitive tasks, but it is not a cure-all. Rather, it's an assistant; it can help you complete your work as a teaching assistant. Recognizing the applicability of technology to those mundane tasks is important if you want to apply it effectively, however. You can save yourself considerable time and effort in administration if you invest upfront in the tools that maximize efficiency.

The Laziness Principle:

Always seek the best results using the least effort. Technology offers one way to achieve the results you desire with a minimum of invested time and energy. Incorporating new technologies for managing information and for communicating with students can make the learning environment easier to use—and more enjoyable for both you and your students.


Successful teaching in a technology environment is helped by being Visible, Organized, Compassionate, and Analytical, and by exhibiting Leadership-by-example1. Model the qualities that make the student successful.

Teacher vs. Teaching Technology

Recognizing the difference between technologies that actually communicate information to students and those that help you be a more effective teacher is important. They are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Consider how each may be appropriate for your situation and then identify opportunities where teaching technology and teacher technology may make your work easier.

Teacher Technology

Teacher technology helps the teacher administer a class. Software, for example, is more a part of the classroom today then ever before, and has assumed a central place in class management.

  • Spreadsheets are useful for maintaining students' information and for automatically calculating grades. The matrix can be used to track deliverables across all students while charts can help to communicate to each student where their grade falls along the distribution of class grades.
  • E-mail lists allow you to reach all of your students (or just a subset) with a click of a button as well as allow every student to reach one another with little additional effort.
  • Plagiarism identification tools help uncover where non-original work has been submitted as original—including work submitted for another class or work purchased from another party.
  • These are becoming essential tools for instructors as class size grows and assignments entail greater collaboration outside of the classroom.

Teaching Technology

Teaching technologies, in contrast to teacher technologies,' help the teacher conduct class. They present new opportunities for conveying information and suggest new modes for reaching students to enable the substantive topic ideas to emerge. For Example:

  • PowerPoint presentations are already integral to both instructor and student presentations in class, but wikis are increasingly useful as both a collaborative forum and a teaching tool.
  • DVDs have supplanted VHS in-class videos and provide more value to instructors as they hold ancillary class material such as texts, video, maps, and charts.
  • Instant feedback tools (e.g., class clickers) make communication a two-way street as they help the instructor gauge student interest in, or understanding of, the current topic.

Sometimes these two complementary, supporting technologies merge to add value. For example, course management software such as Blackboard keeps student information and grades but also delivers class notes and administers quizzes. When the collaborative tool suite is used, Blackboard coordinates groups and manages communication for collaborative student projects. Students can also use the communication tools to monitor their own progress and chat online in real time about upcoming assignments—an example of how teacher and teaching technologies can add value to the classroom experience. Use your imagination to consider how new, emerging technologies can be integrated into the classroom.

Investing in Technology

Increasingly, teaching assistants are asked to deploy supporting technologies in the classroom, so knowing how technology can benefit you as the TA is helpful. These following tips can help you make the right choices to gain the maximum return for students from a minimum of instructor effort.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.