Why Media and Technology?

The use of media and technology in the classroom can help bridge the distance between instructor and students, between students and texts, and between students’ of various skill levels, in effective and innovative ways. The principle for using technology successfully in the classroom, however, is no different from those for assignment design in the traditional classroom. Learning goals and grading rubrics must be clear and transparent; instructions and expectations ought to be conveyed in a straightforward manner; workload needs to be reasonable and the relevance of the activity must be explicit; feedback should be timely. In other words, instructors should think about what the technological tool hopes to achieve pedagogically before implementing it in the classroom.

Using media and technology in the classroom well has many potential benefits for your students. Using the appropriate technology can:

  • Provide access to information where access was once limited or non-existent, e.g. via digitized rare books, archives and manuscripts collections, assistive technology, etc.
  • Help convey information, concepts and process more effectively, e.g. via data visualization, animation, and simulation
  • Encourage exploration and experimentation: search engines (e.g. Google), content aggregators (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, TED, Twitter) and content creation and annotation tools (e.g. Notegraphy, Prezi, Wordle, Animoto, Hypothes.is) make searching for information extremely easy and lowers the barrier for students to experiment with ideas.
  • Enable self-paced learning and sensitivity to different learning styles
  • Make students’ thinking more transparent and help teachers get immediate and continuous feedback on student progress, e.g. via clickers, TopHat, and course statistics
  • Empower students to have greater control over the learning process through the benefits associated with active learning and personal responsibility
  • Permit instructors and students to interact & collaborate with one another beyond class time and extend learning beyond the classroom (e.g. via discussion boards in Canvas, Google Apps, UChicago wiki, or chat)
  • Improve engagement and incorporate real world relevance to classroom activities. Technology is often just fun to use. Many technological tools encourage connecting to external resources and engaging with a wider audience; these features often help students feel that their work has some real world impact.
  • Facilitate classroom management: learning management systems such as Canvas can serve as a repository of resources, act as a gateway to a variety of digital learning tools, and provide a single place for communicating with students, submitting homework, and accessing grades which teachers and students can access anywhere, anytime.
  • Provide the opportunity for students to learn digital citizenship: how to evaluate online sources and how to interact with the public

Other Considerations

Using technology in the classroom does require a few other important considerations.

  1. Privacy concerns. The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student data, including but not limited to student grades and biographical data. Instructors must comply with this federal law, especially if you choose to use a tool that allows public access to its content.
  2. Copyright & Fair Use. Technology makes it easy to copy and share content, but not all content available on the web can be copied and shared legally.
  3. Learning Curve. Using and administering any new tools requires some time and effort up front, even for those who are tech-savvy. Be sure to give your students the opportunity to become familiar with the tool and ask questions.


One of our graduate students, Aiala Levy, discusses her use of Twitter for critical reading in the video on the upper right hand side of this page. 

For more examples of successful incorporation of technology in the classroom, see the Success Stories page in the Technology and Collaborative Learning Workshop wiki.

Getting Help

To learn more about how to use technology well in the classroom:

  • Attend the Creative Assignments in Canvas Using Google Apps, Blogs, & Wiki Pages workshop.

  • Academic Technology Solutions provides Canvas workshops, individual consultation for multimedia development and instructional design support to faculty & lecturers. Our media specialists work with 2D- and 3D animation, multimedia, print, and film for use in both teaching and research. Our learning consultants can help you with course design and revisions from traditional lecture or seminar classes to those incorporating innovative pedagogies utilizing social media or games. Contact academictech@uchicago.edu for more information or to schedule an initial meeting.

Recommended Reading

See the Further Readings & Other General Resources page in the Technology and Collaborative Learning Workshop wiki.