Using Classroom Technology (for Non- Geeks!)

Article by Lori Cargile

Integrating technology into your classroom practice can be daunting for those who consider themselves not to be up-to-speed on the latest electronic gadgets, devices, and computers. Even if you still use a flip cell phone and haven’t touched an iPad a day in your life, there is technology that you can successfully use to reach your students.

First, decide why you want to integrate technology. Do you want to razzle-dazzle your students with pictures, videos, and other visual aids to make learning more relevant? Will you use it to improve student behavior? Do you want instant results on assessments? Or, do you want the students to use the technology to dive deeply into their content? You can do all of these things, but consider beginning with activities that are fun and engaging like online informal (formative) assessments. Don’t worry about technology glitches. If you have any sort of problem, you will be surprised at your students’ patience when they are about to embark upon an anticipated and fun activity. All of the programs I recommend have tutorial videos on YouTube. (Go to YouTube.com and input the name of the program you want to use with the word “tutorial.”)

Start small. Begin by using technology as a supplement to your existing instruction to gather data on learning progress. Rome was not built in a day, so do not expect to be proficient overnight. Using technology takes patience and resolve even for those who consider themselves to be technologically savvy. Check out this list of some of our favorite online programs for collecting informal assessment data. These are some of our top choices from the list:

1. Kahoot – Kahoot can be used with smart (internet capable) cellular phones, tablets, or computers. Teachers create and project multiple choice questions to engage students. The student responses are displayed immediately on a dynamic graph. The program also includes a library of previously created quizzes.
2. Plickers– Plickers is pretty much the same as Kahoot, but the students do not need a device of any sort. Using Plickers only requires the teacher to have a smart cell phone and a classroom projector. The teacher creates and projects multiple choice assessments. The students hold up their answer choice on teacher printed response cards. Data is collected by the teacher’s cell phone and displayed immediately as the students respond.
3. Quizlet – Quizet lets teachers create flashcards, games, and other fun things to review information. You can create your own or use a Quizlet from their library.

Do you want to encourage your students to stay on task? Report positive behaviors to parents by using an online classroom management system. ClassDojo enables you to award points to students for following instructions, being kind, working on task, and for other behaviors. The program is not instructional but promotes a positive learning environment. Kids simply love it and it gives you an objective way to decide who goes on field trips, receives behavioral awards, and other positive reinforcements. Student data is recorded and updated instantaneously with the use of an easy to install app (application) on a smart cell phone, tablet, or computer. Teachers can input the data, or with intermediate and older students, a student can record the data after being prompted by a teacher.

Do you teach mathematics? Wow your students with Desmos’ colorful graphics. This program is simply awesome! It was founded by former mathematics teacher Dan Meyer. It allows students to interact with graphs, data, and more. Desmos is typically used for intermediate grades and above. Brainingcamp (not free) and the National Library of Learning Manipulatives (free but finicky – requires up-to-data Javascript) provide online manipulatives for primary through high school math. Teachers can display interactions with base ten blocks, algebra tiles, pattern blocks, pentominoes, coins and other virtual manipulatives. Students can also use the programs on their devices.

Whichever program you choose to integrate technology, do it soon. The more you use technology, the more proficient and at ease you will become. Learn it now as it will likely only get more complicated. Something will go wrong on your first few attempts to use any new program. Get over it, and get back to it! It you’re feeling like trying something else know, check out these sites:

1. 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2017
2. 10 EdTech Tools for Encouraging Classroom Collaboration
3. 20 Ed Tools for Educators to Use in the Classroom

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