More than two hundred years ago a test was developed by gold prospectors to distinguish gold from base metal. Nitric acid dissolves other metals more readily than gold, so to establish whether a find was really gold it was given the acid test. Subsequently this term took on a figurative meaning, that of a sure test, giving an incontestable result.
When we use technology in the classroom, we don’t want to use it simply because it is available. There must be a purpose for using it. So, what is the acid test for successful technology use in education?
Let’s consider three elements of a lesson plan, which is the blueprint of every lesson.
First of all, there are learning outcomes. This is the guiding principle of every lesson … what do you want the students to be able to do when the lesson is completed? It should be a well-defined outcome. Simply stating that the student must “understand” or “know” or “appreciate” is not good enough. Must the student be able to describe an object, or use a formula to calculate, or demonstrate a skill?
Next, there is assessment. This should link back to the learning outcomes, since the purpose of assessment is to test whether the student successfully achieved the lesson outcomes (or the educator has succeeded in helping the student to do so!). There is no point in testing something that is unrelated to the learning outcomes.
And now we come to technology. When we use it, it must support the learning outcomes. If the outcomes can easily be achieved without the use of technology, then perhaps it was not necessary to use it in the first instance.
So what is the acid test?
When we do assessment, and find that the lesson objectives have been achieved, can this success be attributed to the use of technology?
If the answer is yes, the use of technology was appropriate; if the answer is no … well, then it was not the real gold we imagined it to be.