Last week, I shared Part 1 of this mini-series here on the Campfire blog. You can read Part 1 here if you need to catch up before proceeding.
In Part 1 of Bringing Technology into the Classroom, I shared reasons why it is important to utilize technology in classrooms and why now is the time to integrate technology as a way to teach and prepare students for the future. Part 1 also suggested that you need to start early with children, allowing them access to the tools and techniques associated with a variety of technologies.
I realize, having been a teacher myself, that many teachers are hesitant to try new technology tools or unsure about how to use particular tools in the classroom. Sometimes, the access to the tools is an obstacle in itself. Some schools are lacking in their resources and this makes it challenging for teachers. However, that doesn’t mean that you should abandon all hope or agenda. In the elementary school where I taught Kindergarten, which was quite a large school serving about 750-800 children, we had only one computer lab. This computer lab was run on a first-come, first-served sign up schedule and housed about 30 computers, which all may or may not have been properly functioning on any given day. This was less than an ideal scenario for such a large school where technology should be a big priority.
However, I made it a point to get my class into the computer lab at least once a month to practice skills and complete learning tasks. We started in the very beginning of the year with a fun game-like introduction to the parts of the computer called “Simon Says, It’s Computer Time!” where students learned the correct terminology for the parts of the computer and their functions. Was it always easy? Heck no! Were these trips stress and frustration free? Absolutely not! Was it always worth the stress and frustration? Sometimes. Did the students love these trips to the computer lab? Every single time. Even when the technology didn’t work quite the way I had planned or set their expectations for. Most times they handled that better than I did.
The point is, I was making an effort. I am quite a computer savvy person, so it was something I felt very passionate about, sharing this with my students. It wasn’t always perfect, it wasn’t always easy, but I continued to do try because it was important. The key was that I started small. I didn’t jump right in with both feet and tackle every program and tool I had at my fingertips, each year I learned how to use one more program in a few different ways so that I could add a lesson that used it. I certainly don’t know how to use these programs in their entirety, but I didn’t need to. Because I had the youngest children in my classroom, I was able to progress as they progressed. With younger students it was all about introduction and exposure. Showing them how to use a computer, operate a mouse, type their names, these were the things that were most important for each child to know at the end of the year. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a lot, and we certainly learned more than just those simple skills, but it was a good starting point.
Today’s lesson is just that – Start, but start small. An article found on Edutopia, “Doing More with Less (and Other Practical Educational Technology Tidbits)” prompted this post. In the article, author Adam Bellow shares a list of ways to help you get started with technology in your classroom.
1. Start Small. New initiatives can be extremely overwhelming each year, especially if you haven’t exactly mastered the older initiatives your district has put into place. With technology these new initiatives can be downright hard to follow, especially if you are a “tech-challenged” individual. But you never accomplish anything unless you try. You cannot be afraid of failure. One thing that teachers are excellent at is self-evaluation, being able to look at a lesson or a piece of a lesson and evaluate how it went. If it didn’t go as planned, that’s ok, try it again.
Try one new thing a week, so you don’t become overwhelmed
Try only one new thing at a time, so that you are not cramming too much into one lesson
2. Collaboration Is the 21st Century Skill. Learning to work with others and share ideas is an imperative skill to teach our youngsters. This is one of the most valuable skills that they can learn that will help them and be useful to them throughout the remainder of their lives. talk about a real-world connection? It is also a good skill for educators to possess. Often to work around the limitations of our school’s technology, another teacher and I would pair up for a tech-based lesson. We would co-teach the content and our students would work together to complete the lesson’s activity. These lessons were some of the favorite lessons of the students and the teachers!
Use free tools, such as Google Docs or Skype
Find new ways to collaborate, both for your students and yourself and your colleagues
3. Training is Key. Schools should be making it a priority to properly train their teachers on how to use the technology tools that they provide. Training should be on-going. This is not always an option, but the internet is always an option. During my last year of teaching, I was lucky enough to have a SmartBoard installed in my classroom. My “formal” training never came through from the school, so I taught myself. I read how to use the software on the Promethean website, learned how to do some things from another teacher who had taken a class on using the SmartBoard, and when I had issues, I troubleshooted online. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but it was something that I was passionate about using with my students, so I was determined to learn it.
Look outside your school as some great PD that is free and easy to come by
Suggest that each faculty meeting include a tech-share, this is a brilliant idea
4. Go Mobile. Smartphones, iPods, iPads…all of these new technologies present wonderful opportunities to use technology in the classroom. Bellow’s makes the case that the days of the computer lab are gone, I very much agree. Why would you limit the technology to a certain space for a limited number of students? “Any investment a school makes in technology should be something that can be used in multiple settings for multiple purposes by multiple sets of students.”
Make the case for mobile technology, make a case to whoever is making the decision about how this technology would make your classroom a better place
Fundraise creatively, sometimes the money just isn’t there, be creative
5. High Tech on a Low Budget. You can do a lot with very little. There are tons of web-based tools out there that perform comparably to more expensive options, like PhotoShop.
Use Twitter, to find out about these tools
6. Rethink Who Should Be at the Table. This is a big one. When making decisions about what technologies would be best for classrooms, often classroom teachers are the ones left out of the conversations. This should no longer be the case. Classroom teachers, those who this new technology will impact on a daily basis, should be the first people invited to talks about new materials.
Invite all stakeholders to the table, to join in the conversation and discuss the various sides of the issues
Create a small representative committee of students, who can be involved at some point in the decision making process
Bellow’s article goes into much more detail than I have given here. I just came across this article and felt that it summed up how to step into using more technology in your classroom in a comprehensive way. No matter where you are in the process of integrating more technology, you are never alone. Reach out to your colleagues, as they can often times bet the best resources. Look for new ideas on the internet, through Twitter or blogs. And again, remember, just start small. Baby steps, learn to do one thing and one thing well, then move on to the next thing.
Whatever you do, don’t wait. Start now. What is one thing you have been waiting to use with your students? Or something that you would like to know more about how to use with your students? If you have something you want more information about, leave a note in the comments and I will try to point you in the direction of some resources that might be helpful.