My first year of teaching, my administrator handed me an iPad and said, âPlay with it. As if I had all the time in the world as a first year teacher to play with technology that I had never used! Even though my administration didn’t pressure me to integrate right away, I did put pressure on myself. It’s hard enough to fight for student attention against romantic relationships, hormones, fatigue, and cell phones. Now we’re supposed to give them another distraction. Being the nice person that I am, I took the plunge.
I would like to tell you that the technology integrates itself, but it does not. No tech fairy comes into your classroom to plug all the wires into the right places, create interesting lesson videos, or keep students engaged. What I can offer you are five tips that I learned along the way, so that you can benefit from my blood, sweat and tears. If you’ve ever been afraid of bringing technology into your classroom, fear no longer.
1. Create clear instructions
Students act like they know everything there is to know about the technology, but they don’t. It helps to have clear instructions that you review, model, and have accessible throughout the year. I post simple, step-by-step instructions on my wall that are color coordinated and include visual icons. For larger projects, I create videos that go through the instructions using screencastify. This way the student can watch the video as many times as needed.
2. Recruit technical support for students
Students are more likely to ask another student for help than the teacher. I suggest recruiting at least two students (diligent, helpful and encouraging students) per class to become the student technical support team. I try to develop a team atmosphere between them. They have lunch and learns in my classroom where I give them snacks and train them on the programs I will be using. They even have a cool name “Browning’s Tech Squad”. They are able to troubleshoot with their peers and decide when a problem needs my help.
3. Get up and move
First-grade teachers are told that closeness will solve many of their classroom management problems. The same goes for the integration of technology. My students are in groups of six with their Chromebooks all pointing in different directions; therefore, I am standing and moving around the room a lot. There is no management strategy that is better than your presence in the room, however, there are ways to keep them on track and minimize your walking time. During the tests, I move the students to pairs of seats. This way I can see all the screens at the same time. In addition, they are not allowed to darken their screen, and iPads must lie flat on the table.
4. Engage their interests
Using technology shouldn’t mean doing the same boring worksheets on the computer instead of paper. Be aware of all the opportunities offered by technology, including engaging videos, music, programs, and online communications (like blogs) to help your students understand content. Finding these resources can take time. Hire your teaching team to lighten the load. Each of the teachers on your team can find a way to incorporate technology into your next unit. By the time you start, you may have four or five different engaging strategies or resources ready.
5. Create a professional online community
Digital citizenship may be the buzzword of the decade, but it is of great significance. Students are often thrown at computers with no guidance on how to behave or perform. Without guidance, students will approach digital academic work with the same relaxed mindset they bring to social media or online games outside of the classroom. It is much easier to be proactive and teach them how to be professional than it is to deal with cyberbullying, or worse, later.