All You Need is an Oven and a Knife

by Jackie Wickham Smith

A few holiday seasons ago, I received a great gift – the Pizzazz Rotating Pizza Oven! I came back to work after the holiday singing its praises and immediately began convincing all of my coworkers to purchase one.  My spirits were quickly dampened when one of my coworkers asked, “Does it do the same thing as my oven?” I stared blankly at him as he continued, “all of these different kitchen gadgets…they all do the same thing as an oven or a knife. All you need is an oven and a knife. Everything else just takes up too much room in the kitchen.”

About a year later, my cousin called me in a panic. She had just started dating a new guy, and he was going to come over and make her dinner. His recipe called for a broiler, and he wanted to know if her oven had one. If not, he could bring his toaster oven as a substitute. She had no idea, and didn’t want to look silly in front of this new guy!

How do these kitchen stories apply to online learning?

Frequently, people get excited about new tools, and that’s great! But when choosing a technology solution, it’s important to keep in mind that using too much technology can “take up too much room in the kitchen” and make a course feel cluttered, or cause students to spend more time learning the technology than they do focusing on the content.

Before choosing a new tool, you should fully understand the capabilities of your existing tools. If you’re not sure, ask! Northwestern offers 24/7 Canvas support – accessible by clicking the “Help” button in the global navigation menu of any Canvas course – and the support representatives are happy to answer any questions about existing Canvas functionality! You can also contact anyone on the Distance Learning Team to find out more about technology solutions available at Northwestern.

How do I know if I need to implement new technology?

If there’s a topic in your course that students struggle with more than you think they should, or a task in course facilitation that is more difficult for you than you think it should be, or you feel like students become less engaged at a certain point in your course, using technology in a different way might help! The most effective implementations of new education technology start from trying to solve a teaching and/or learning problem.

The Distance Learning Team at Northwestern SPS is available to assist SPS online faculty with questions related to any aspect of their courses. We can recommend new technologies, ways to adapt existing technologies, or strategies that don’t involve technology at all! We can also connect you with other faculty who’ve encountered and solved similar issues in the past. Contact us at any time!