Technology at USC and Elsewhere

No single technology can do everything. The trick is to find the right technology for your needs.

Choosing the Right Technology

Think carefully about your needs in the classroom. How can technology assist you in managing the class? How might technology help to communicate class concepts to students more effectively and efficiently? Most importantly, how can technology help you to do an even better job while relieving some of the effort currently invested in the "overhead" of managing the class for the instructor?

One way to approach the problem is to treat it as a research question: What could make your life easier as a TA? Use your knowledge of technology and the resources on this wiki to solve it. Investing a bit of time up-front to identify opportunities to make life easier will likely return continuing benefits semester after semester.

Remember, creative uses of technology can be integrated into your teaching, research, and daily life to make your work more enjoyable. Ask people in your field if they had the same issues and how they addressed them. To determine the extent to which new or unfamiliar technologies or tools can help make a difference for you, begin with these suggestions:

  • If you can do it without technology, great!!
  • If you know someone who is using technology in their classes, ask them how it works for them-and how it doesn't.
  • If you are struggling with a specific problem, ask tech-savvy people if they can suggest a remedy. (If the person has experience in your field, even better, but if they don't, you will have to experiment.)

The key thing to keep in mind is not to be afraid. All technology has a learning curve, and the worthwhile technologies return exponentially more benefit than the effort invested. And, learning new tools adds value to you as a TA-and as a job candidate. Ultimately, though, you will have to decide if using the technology is worth the investment. Remember the Laziness Principle and apply it.

There are many resources to help you. Each school has an IT staff; ask them to help you learn. There are also many user groups on the Internet (and sometimes on campus) to whom you can appeal with questions. The web is rich with excellent educational resources! Use them and save your time! A well-worded Internet search will return a trove of valuable insights-often from people who have already solved similar problems. There is no need to reinvent the wheel!

Finding Materials

How to find materials that make the learning process interactive while making your job more enjoyable.

Freeware and shareware software tools

  • Freeware Wiki lets you look for great freeware that's been tried and reviewed.
  • Version Tracker is a searchable index of freeware and shareware (e.g., "education")

Education theory, tips, and tricks

There are many resources for educators that focus on applied technology in the classroom. From journal articles to how-to websites, a good place to start is the major universities' libraries. They often maintain extensive bibliographies and web links. Contact the reference librarian there to ask if there are any resources focused on TAs.
There are also knowledge sites that can help you get in touch with trade publications or media articles that discuss the use of technology in education. Selected portals available through USC include:

Subject area resources

Substantively speaking, there are websites that focus on individual subject areas. In languages, for example, there are Internet resources that both facilitate teaching itself (see for instance Phonetique) and present learning opportunities for students. A useful website for students in social science, for example, is the periodic table of visualization methods. That site is both a resource for students and a teaching tool for instructors.

Collaborative resources

Encourage students to use technologies interactively. For example, allow students to virtually collaborate on homework or projects, or have discussions with others who can help. To find material that makes the learning process interactive, see1

Examples of technologies that help you work better

Consider the following tools that are well-integrated INSIDE the classroom:

  • Whiteboard
  • Overhead transparencies
  • Power Point
  • Videos
  • Graphing calculators

How can these newer approaches take instruction and student achievement a step farther?

  • In-class website browsing
  • Music and other content presentation
  • Podcasts and other downloadable narrative-format audio and video content
  • Mathematica for visualization

Consider these opportunities to continue learning BEYOND the classroom:

  • Blogs
  • Internet groups
  • Wikis
  • Instant messaging (IM)
  • Virtual office hours

To Watch

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