Article by Katie Currens
Many teachers don’t have time to fit keyboarding or computer games into their already too-tight schedules. As a consultant, I like helping teachers look at their time in a different way. We certainly don’t want to add anything to plates that are already full, so instead we can look at how to integrate technology into what we already do. Below are a few ways you can add a technological spin in your class.
Set up your morning meeting, advisory, or calendar time using a projector. I can’t tell you how many classrooms I walked into where the kids completely in control of the meeting. Whether they are using the mouse to move through slides or if the teacher has an interactive board, the students take ownership. Likewise, I have seen teachers set up class websites where students can log in and interact in a post about a scenario that they then discuss further in class as a team building exercise.
Google Classroom or other digital classroom programs are a great way to streamline keyboarding practice while completing assignments. As the teacher, you can upload your class newsletters, post reminders about assignments or activities, and have online grading capabilities that will allow you to give students immediate feedback. No one likes to carry that heavy bag of papers back and forth from school and home. Let’s allow our students the opportunity to become more proficient at word processing by making that one of our primary means of submitting papers in class. This certainly won’t work flawlessly every day if you don’t have 1:1 devices in your classroom, but you can always plan a lesson in which you schedule time in a computer lab or with a laptop cart.
Get a refurbished tablet or write a grant to get a variety of technology for your classroom. Students can use them to access an abundance of websites, conduct web based research, or read novels. One of the best uses I’ve seen is having students take a picture of their small group work or team anchor charts using the tablet. Instead of lugging a ton of papers home, you can take the tablet, scroll through the projects, and check for completion while getting a great gauge of their level of understanding of a concept. Believe it or not, I’ve seen this done with a kindergarten class that was using tangrams. The kids loved having the responsibility of taking the picture of their work without the teacher needing to constantly leave her small group to check their understanding. The teacher also set up a digital device check in at the end of each group to ensure it stayed in the classroom.
We all have those days where it seems like every plan you had just flies out of the window. Use these as opportunities to use tech lingo in your lessons. Instead of having them type an essay they can compose a blog entry. One of my favorite bulletin boards I had in my classroom said “What are you Tweeting about?” Students would write a quick “tweet” about their learning that day and add it to our board. It was a way for me to get a short snapshot of their learning, while teaching them about a common term they encounter in social media.
Aside from the fact that there are technology standards for kindergarten through twelfth grade, it is just best practice to provide students with technology exposure. As professionals, we are aware of how digital our world has become simply by our own means of communicating with fellow educators through email, blogs, or resource sharing websites. Let’s set our students up for success by allowing them the opportunity to navigate this digital worlds, starting in our classrooms.
Unfortunately, there will always be concerns with availability of resources, functionality, and getting students acclimated to the technology. However, we cannot let those excuses stop us. There are educational funding websites that will allow you to access devices you may not otherwise get and technology departments that will work tirelessly to fix what they can. (And let’s give them credit: there are often just a few of them in comparison to the amount of technology they must work on in the district!) Spending just a few short lessons on how to properly turn on, log in, and shut down devices as well as teaching proper usage will save you so much time in the long run. The more of us integrating technology now, the easier it will become down the road. And let’s be fair – these kids often know more about technology than many of us acknowledge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a technology “duh” moment and a student casually talks me through how to correct it. They love being engaged in something that is an ever-present reality in their world today. Let’ give them this opportunity to show their digital expertise!