By: Jessica Sanders
Educators are inundated with information about classroom technology, and for good reason: there are many reasons to implement digital learning tools for students AND teachers. However, the prospect can seem intimidating: Where do I start? What will work best for my students? How much will it cost?
Luckily, classroom technology isn’t as scary as it may seem. Of course, shifting to digital learning in your classroom should involve school and district leaders and be should aligned with educational priorities. “Don’t adopt tech for tech’s sake,” was a phrase echoed at iNACOL ’14 by many online leaders. We are all at different levels of EdTech implementation. Here are five things for those beginning the shift to digital learning to practice to grow familiar and comfortable.
1. Start Small
You don’t need to purchase a mass order of iPads or Kindle’s to effectively use technology in your classroom. Start with the products, apps or websites you’re comfortable with, like YouTube or Blogger. Both of these tools are free to use and can be built into in your lesson plan without much adjustment or technical knowledge.
Get savvy. Start a blog with your students. Each week one student could write a blog post on the topic of their choosing, or one that you assign based on the lesson plan that week. Parents can read the entries at home and students will be excited to use this simple piece of technology in the classroom.
2. Be Picky
There are a variety of tools, apps and products available to you, but you don’t need to master all, or even half of them. Nor will you have a use every tech tool out there. Consider what your students could benefit from the most, and then choose one or two tools that fall into that category and integrate them at your own pace. Poll students to see what platforms they are familiar with and currently use. Why recreate the wheel?
Get savvy. Many teachers struggle with motivating students to read at home. Use a tool like Reading Glue or Whooo’s Reading online platforms that track student reading progress. Try FastFig to engage students with math or the American History Games app for history.
3. Learn “Just Enough”
In 1990, a theory called the 5Js was used with 150 teachers in 5 states to help them integrate technology into their classrooms, according to Mary Burns of eLearn Magazine. “Just enough” is one of the Js and can be used as a simple method for becoming more comfortable with tech in your classroom.
“Teachers don’t need to know everything about a particular piece of software. They only need ‘just enough’ to help them complete a curriculum-related or instructional task. Anything beyond this is wasted effort,” wrote Burns.
Get savvy. Instead of paying for a “pro” or “premium” version of a product, try the free option first. Learn the basics and upgrade as needed.
4. Be Your Own Guinea Pig
The best way to be comfortable with technology in the classroom is to use it yourself. If your school has iPads or Kindles, take one home, or with you on your lunch break. Take time to learn how they work, what you can do, and how your students can benefit from the product. This works for apps, software and online platforms.
Get savvy. Choose a few tech tools you’re interested in and test one a week, narrowing down the options as you go. This can range from screening educational YouTube videos to testing free apps.
5. Find Support
The popularity of classroom technology makes it easy for you to find support for the tools you want to use. Many product websites feature a blog with tech support and tips for using their tools.
Get savvy. Choose tools that provide access to an online community, support forum or blog. Schoology does this especially well, offering training and access to a community of users.