Using Technology in the Classroom

Ric Matthews  (Notes on the disabled from Melinda Marino and Ellen Cutler)

How, when, and why to use technology in the classroom

It has been said that we teach the way that WE learn.  As we enter or continue careers in education it is important to remember that many, if not most, of our students will have learning styles that are different than our own.  Additionally, we need to take into account alternate strategies for students with disabilities. Many researchers, such as Gardner, have demonstrated that there are multiple intelligences and multiple learning styles.  This means that in our classrooms we need to employ a variety of strategies to reach the broadest cross-section of students.  Research suggests that many younger learners are apart of the “MTV Generation”, which is reported to be most influenced with short rapid sound bites with intense visual stimulation.  

How can a community college faculty member reach this broadening audience?  One method is though the effective use of technology to complement the content being delivered.  

Technology should be chosen to serve a particular purpose, and not because it is “cool” or you heard that it worked in someone else’s class.  This section will look at various technology tools that have application for the classroom.  Each will have a brief description, potential situations in which it might be applicable, disadvantages and links to additional information and vendors.

Please note that most of the photographs/pictures have hyperlinks that are accessed by clicking on the picture.


Sounds have been used in classrooms for years.  Today we have many more ways to obtain and preserve tracks.   Records found their way into the classroom shortly after they were invented, as have cassette tapes and now Compact Disks.  Sounds can make a rich enhancement to a lesson. Imagine teaching about native wildlife and including actual sounds recorded in the environment. Imagine the value to a history or speech faculty of having a recording of a famous speech ­ such as Martin Luther King’s "I Have Dream", ( ) or Richard Nixon assuring us that he is "not a crook." Often, excellent teaching resources come from public domain sources such as National Public Radio (

Sound is a very simple and familiar technology for all of us. It is easily available in a variety of sources from records, tapes, CDs, radio, television, film and off of the Internet.  Faculty can capture and preserve sounds using tape recorders, audio digitizers, and even personal computers.  Using sources like Price Grabber and Amazon, it is relatively easy to find equipment and recordings. 

portable mini disk recorder/player image

For example, this is a Portable Mini Disk Recorder / Player (left) that could be used to capture and playback sounds, while being small and recorder

Here is a smaller recorder (right) but this one has the software for voice recognition into text. It gives an idea of where technology is converging, an automated transcriptionist!

Classrooms should be configured with, or have accessibility to, sound amplification devices.  The faculty member needs to be able to connect a playing device into an amplifier with speakers, if audio is used in a classroom environment.  We often do this for classrooms where we teach aerobic exercise and dance, but often overlook the possibilities in other class settings.  Speakers are often integrated into other technologies such as a video data projector or a VHS player.

Note about serving the disabled:  Please be aware that all teaching resources with audio components (e.g., videos) need to be presented in text (e.g., captioning) for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Every California Community College has received funding for captioning equipment as well as funding to outsource captioning. Contact your Disabled Students Programs and Services office to learn how caption is handled on your campus. 

Today it is also possible for a faculty member or college to create their very own radio station via streamed audio on the Internet.  There are several possible sources of information on how to do that, but you might have a look at the following site as a start - .  They suggest that you can get on the air with high quality equipment for under $1000.  Other sources of audio information and streaming might include:


Here is a sample of a video steam ­ we might want  to replace it with something more “politicially correct”


Visual Media

Humans depend mostly on their sense of vision to make determinations about their environments, and the faculty should fully utilize this sense in creating lessons.

Creating Media

The instructor has many choices today for the creation of instructional materials ­ and these tools range from reasonably simple to use to those that are specifically designed for the artist.  Most simple efficiency suites such as Microsoft Office and Corel WordPerfect Office provide a collection of useful tools, readily available to even the most novice user.  Community College employees should be aware that there are organizations that have negotiated deeply discounted deals with vendors, and one should look at their current agreements.

Note about serving the disabled:  Students who are blind and some students who are partially sighted need text equivalents of visually presented materials. The California Community College Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities ( and the Guidelines for Producing Instructional and Other Printed Materials in Alternate Media for Persons with Disabilities ( provide general principles on making instructional materials accessible to students who are visually impaired. Contact the Disabled Student Programs and Services office (or Office of Services for Students with Disabilities) on your campus about what materials you need converted to an alternate format.

As one's needs and sophistication level begin to increase, additional companies provide software packages to assist in the development of very sophisticated material.  These include:

Presenting Media

Once media has been produced, the instructor has several options, depending on the equipment available, in how they might present material to a class.

35 mm film strip projector image It is harder now to find some of the older technology, but for sake of completeness they are mentioned here.  Historically, schools have provided film strip projectors processing 35 mm film onto a large screen.

Slide projectors such as slide projector image this Kodakä Carousel Projector still have much application for the classroom. Many faculty have collected a lifetime of photographic transparencies or slides.  It should be noted that one of the disadvantages to this media is that there is a decrease in the photographic quality of the images with each showing, and so over time the materials ­ most often shown as originals will loose there image quality. A more “modern” solution is to use a slide digitizer, such as the ones that are available from Polaroid or Kodak, to convert images into a digital format allowing archiving and sharing of images indefinitely without decreasing quality.

This is a Polaroid SprintScan 120 polaroid sprintscan image  which is able to have 2X2 slides transparencies and scan them into a digital format.

overhead projector

Many of those who work with the adoption of technology like to tell the story about how it took 15 years to move the overhead projector from the bowling alley to the classroom.  Here was a technology that projected players scores onto a screen for all to see, and yet it took years to move into the educational area.  When first introduced, these were purchased in limited numbers by campuses and were checked out from some centralized audio/visual support area.  Today many campuses have these available in every classroom. It is that type of adoption process that faculty should come to expect.  Many publishers provide colored overhead transparencies with the adoption of their textbooks.  Today, copy machines and laser/inkjet printers can produce both colored and black/white transparencies.  Another advantage is that the faculty can use blank transparencies as a substitute for the black/white board, allowing them to face their class for a friendlier presentation.

LCD projector imagedigital projection on screen
Today, the new standard is a digitized presentation created from a software package such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint, delivered via a computer device and digitally projected onto a screen. 

The Usefulness of Computer-Based Presentations in a Teacher Directed Classroom

Here is a sample of a PowerPoint presentation which should play by clicking on the first slide shown and advancing or reversing the direction using the arrow keys on your keyboard. Hit ESCAPE to return to this presentation.

  Begin PowerPoint Slide Show >

Note about serving the disabled:  At this moment, PowerPoint presentations saved as web pages are not accessible to people who are blind. Strategies include providing students with the information in accessible etext or Braille (for those students who read Braille) and/or providing students with the PowerPoint file itself to run within PowerPoint. Contact the Disabled Student Programs and Services office (Office of Services for Students with Disabilities) on your campus if you need a PowerPoint presentation converted to etext or Braille.