A Simple Framework for Thinking About Educational Technology

Every week I receive dozens of questions from readers of this newsletter. Most of the questions are what I call “nuts and bolts” or “how to” questions. I’m happy to answer those questions even though they often apply to just one person or a small group of people. This week I got a question that applies to every teacher who has ever felt overwhelmed by the number of educational technology products available today.

The question came from a teacher who wrote, “I love all of the tips that you have on your website. The problem I have is that I want to try all of them (LOL!). Seriously, how do you sort through everything to decide what to use in your classroom?

I felt that way many years ago. It’s actually a large part of why I started Free Technology for Teachers. Writing about the tools helped me figure out what was good and what wasn’t. But eventually I needed a better system so I created a simple framework for evaluating and thinking about how I use technology in school. I call that framework Discovery, Discussion, Demonstration and it has served me well more than a decade now.

I explained the framework in detail in a free webinar last spring. You can watch that webinar here. The talking points of the webinar are outlined below.


Does the product or service help students discover new-to-them information? If so, I’ll spend time investigating it to see if it merits using in a classroom. Some products and services that fit this category are Google Books search, many augmented and virtual reality apps like those from Merge Cube, and digital map platforms like ArcGIS Story Maps and Google Earth.


Can the service or product help teachers facilitate discussions beyond typical in-classroom conversations? These are tools that can give shy students a voice and give chatty students a place to express themselves, too. Flipgrid does this well, as does Backchannel Chat.


Can the tool or service help students showcase their knowledge and skills in a new and interesting way? For some students this might be as simple as showing them a new slides trick. For other students this might be making green screen videos. And for other students it could be developing their own games or mobile apps to show their knowledge or programming concepts (the MIT App Inventor is great for that, here’s how to use it).

Good Projects Combine all Three

A good project will get students to use technology to engage in discovery, discussion, and demonstration.

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