Six Tips for Using Technology in Your Classroom or School
It’s no secret, implementing technology in your classroom is a great way to increase student engagement.
A good majority of schools and classrooms now utilize some form of supported learning through technology, and there are an increasing amount who specialize in learning focused toward understanding the role of technology in our future.
Technology in the classroom is the future we’re headed toward -- it’s evident on an almost daily basis in education, and it’s impact is growing exponentially as more schools and classrooms design creative and innovative ways to use tech with their students.
Nonetheless, implementing technology in your school or classroom doesn’t always immediately result in increased student engagement, or more creative approaches to learning. It takes time to develop strategies based around technology that work hand-in-hand with the learning already taking place in your school or classroom. In other words, taking the time to develop plans and expectations for the use of technology in your learning environment will only help to ensure that delivery and implementation are done successfully.
Here are six tips that can help that process go over smoothly, and give you more time to focus on the learning desires and outcomes you seek with tech experiences.
1.) A 1:1 Ratio of Tech to Students Isn’t Necessary
School Tech Can Be Used As a Shared Resource
Recently, there has been a significant increase in the amount of schools adopting a 1:1 initiative and striving to provide all of their students with access to a device. The initiative has even been adopted by entire cities, like Los Angeles. In other words, it’s gaining a ton of traction, and is seemingly the desired outcome of every school and district seeking innovation.
Make no mistake, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this initiative, as it is certainly a good way to increase student engagement and provide new ways to interact with learning. Nonetheless, there are inherently, and for whatever reason, some schools and classrooms that are unable to implement a 1:1 ratio of tech to students. And that’s fine because it isn’t necessary in order to ensure that your students are getting the most out of interacting with tech.
In fact, as long as you’ve created expectations on how your students rotate through their use of tech, and provide an eclectic approach to resources in your learning environment, you can take advantage of having less tech than there are students.
The students of today are certainly well- versed at using technology to support their learning, but there are still advantageous ways to support learning without the use of technology. For example, consider how you’re encouraging the cultivation of empathy in your students with tactics that remove technology from the situation.
That does not mean that these skills can’t still be developed with the use of technology, it just means human interactions are an inevitable part of life and sometimes when tech is not as much of a focus, human interaction comes more naturally.
Essentially, don’t look at the lack of a 1:1 tech to student ratio in your school or classroom as a disadvantage, think of it as a way to take time for developing other necessary skills. Technology will inevitably be a large part of our futures, but so will the cultivation of skills that transcend what a machine can accomplish.
2.) Use Technology As a Tool for Learning, Not Just for Fun
Connecting Engaging Use of Technology to Learning is Key
Most kids love to play games, and they usually love to play those games even more if they’re played through some form of technological device. There is no denying these facts, and it’s one of the main reasons why gamification has become a big focus in schools across the nation.
Essentially, using tech to engage students is about meeting them where they’re at and leveraging their love for interacting with tech to create engaging learning.
However, there is also a fine line. Often times, tech is not connected to learning, and the use of it in classrooms becomes something students take advantage of simply to have fun. That works well if you’re using tech as a brain break strategy for your students, but not if you’re looking to connect it to learning. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference, and also to ensure that you’re connecting it to learning.
For example, there are some great tech tools out there -- like Kahoot!, Sphero Edu and Nearpod -- that are pre-built to be fun and also conducive to learning. There are also more organic ways to connect tech to learning.
For example, reflection is always an easy strategy you can leverage. After you finish playing a game with your students, or use fun tech like robots and droids, have some time for reflection on how the tech can be used in real-world scenarios to better support the completion of certain objectives.
Finally, you can also connect tech to learning by tasking your students with certain directives they must complete while using a specific device. This strategy goes particularly well with coding activities and the devices you can use while coding with your students.
Ultimately, the use of technology will almost always be fun, but it can be both fun and informational.
3.) Create a Landing Page to Organize All of the Tools You Use
Access All of the Tech You Use In One Place
A good amount of the technology you use will be tangible, and used as such. However, there is a good amount of tech that you will discover online, and that is offered exclusively online. Even the tangible tools you use will sometimes have an online component that is necessary to its use.
In the fire-hydrant-of-information world we live in, there is inevitably too much tech in too many different areas. So, how do we organize all of the different apps, devices and games we use to bolster our learning environment? There are ways.
For example, you could use a Google Document or a Trello Board that links to all of the tech you use in your school or classroom, and share it with interested colleagues and with your students, so they can access tech resources easily.
There are also organization tools available -- like Symbaloo -- that visually bookmark the resources you want to highlight, and make it easier for you and your students to interact with tech, and the programs that support them, efficiently.
The point is, the amount of information we receive and interact with on a daily basis is overwhelming and finding ways to sift through it, and organize it so it’s easily disseminated, is important to both you and your students.
4.) Use QR Codes
They Aren’t As Outdated and Obsolete As You Might Think
To be honest, we could write an entire blog on QR codes, and we most likely will because they have a plethora of uses, and can be one of the more innovative and simple examples of tech you utilize in your learning environment.
For example, you can use them to do a virtual field trip with your students by placing different QR codes around your classroom, or throughout the entire school, and tasking your students to interact with them and gather information.
You can use them as a research tool as well, and put the power of research in the hands of your students while also ensuring that they engage in meaningful and appropriate research.
QR codes are useful in BreakoutEDU scenarios as well, as they can help organize how your students interact with the clues necessary to moving through the process.
There are myriad ways for you and your students to use QR codes, and if you’re looking for more information on some other strategies, you can check out this Pinterest Board. Furthermore, there’s a great spreadsheet, linked to here, that will create the QR codes for you automatically.
The fact of the matter is, tech is generally a victim to its own continued drive for innovation, and a lot of useful technology is often pushed from the fold before it’s lost its relevancy -- QR codes fit that bill.
5.) Set Expectations for Screen Visibility
Ensure Focused Use of Tech by Mandating Screen Visibility
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Students can get off task when they are given the freedom to investigate online without supervision. That’s not always a bad thing, as online freedom encourages students to investigate their interests and passions; however, it can also be a drain on their productivity and give them a reason to hide what they are researching.
Setting an expectation of screen visibility in your classroom or school will ensure that technology is always used to support the directives of learning you’ve tasked your students to complete. This goes hand-in-hand with ensuring that technology is connected to learning as well.
It’s really quite simple -- mitigate any potential technology distractions by setting clear expectations for how it will be used in your school or classroom, from the beginning.
6.) Encourage Students to be the Smartest People In the Room
Empowered Students Means Efficient Use of Tech
You don’t have to know everything about technology and its uses in the classroom in order to take advantage of it in your learning environment. In fact, the students of today are usually already well-versed in technology, and we can learn a lot from them.
By setting the parameters and expectations for how tech will be used in your classroom, and letting students determine what they can accomplish with it, your students will feel like experts, and likely prove that they are in the process.
Furthermore, this will also ensure that tech is integrated into your learning environment efficiently and effectively, as the more advanced students will be able to help others; instead of you spending a lot of time managing tech in students’ hands, you can ensure that they stay on task with the learning. You may even learn a thing or two from your students about technology.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that many educators think they have to be experts in technology in order to use it in their classrooms effectively, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The students of today are already itching to learn more from technology, and even if they don’t know how a certain device works, they can probably figure it out quicker than we can, to be frank.
Technology is an ever-expanding tool, and as it moves more steadily into the world of education, there is much to learn about how we can continue to leverage it effectively.
Luckily, we can learn a good amount of that from interacting with students, and exploring the ways they engage with it on a daily basis.
The bottom line is that technology can work to immediately increase student engagement in your school or classroom, as long as it is utilized effectively and with parameters that are built to ensure the focused use of it by your students.
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