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Tips for Using Technology & Managing Devices in the Classroom

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Technology
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October 4, 2016

Technology is all around us in our schools. In fact, in recent years it seems that the challenge for districts isn’t getting technology to the classroom but trying to leverage that technology and use it properly in the classroom. So here are some tips to get your district or classroom headed in the right direction.

Technology comes last

Never, ever design your instruction or classroom around the technology. Too many times teachers stress about how to make technology work as a part of their lesson. This isn’t the way you should approach it. Do everything you can to create and plan lessons that will engage students and help them learn, then look and see how technology integrates into that experience.

Technology should make things easier and more efficient for both you and the student. If you’re making things harder for everyone just to use the technology, stop! Nothing can replace teachers and their experience and relationship with their students. Only use the technology when it makes sense.

You can’t use technology if you don’t know how it works

I always encourage districts to get as much training for their teachers on devices and the technology they’re using. Teachers cannot get too much training. I know a great place to get cheap training for your teachers no matter what devices they’re using. You can call us here at OPSRC, and we’d be happy to come provide training for your teachers on the devices they're using.  Unfortunately, you don’t have an unlimited amount of time so you have to find other ways to learn.

Here are some quick suggestions:

Admins

  • If your school has purchased devices, get them into the hands of your teachers first! Give them time to explore and learn. Teachers need to use the device like it’s their own personal device. The more they use it for everyday tasks and see the value in it, the more they’ll see the value technology can bring to their students and the classroom.

Teachers

  • Get on social media and start using the hashtags: #edtech, #edtechchat, #gafe, #edcamp, #oklaed, etc. You’ll find a lot of smart people out there on Twitter whom you can follow and learn from.
  • Become a part of the Edcamp movement. It’s great and you’ll find that a lot of teachers are in the same boat as you. Edcamps allow YOU to control your PD and learning experience. Oklahoma has a great Edcamp community, and if you get involved you won’t be sorry. You’ll also be able to connect with people who’ve already been through the fire and you can learn from their experiences.
  • Find the teachers or people who know. There is usually one or two teachers at every school who always embrace new technology and always know how it works. Become their friends. Buy them some cookies. Learn from them. They know the ins and outs of your school and the technology, and they can provide great support.
  • Use sites like Lynda.com where you can learn anything you want, anytime, online. This is a great way to learn when you have time.
  • But most importantly…

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

The key to success with technology in the classroom is to be persistent.

Trying anything new can be frustrating but technology has a way to make you want to give up. Don’t! Anything worthwhile requires patience and commitment! Stick to it because you can do it!

Start Small

If you find an app or get devices and try it without a trial, it won’t be fun. This is a common mistake made by most teachers. They get some nominal or quick training on a device or technology and then get excited about using it the classroom. This is good. It’s good to be excited and to want to try new things in our classrooms, but you have to crawl before you can walk.

Find a small group of students in your class, and try what you want accomplish with that small group. Let them know you’re trying something new and you need help and want their feedback. This way if something goes wrong, it’s easier to tackle and it’s not so difficult to manage.

There is nothing more intimidating than trying something with a large group of students and it not work the way you expected. It frustrates the teacher AND the students. It also shakes a teacher's confidence in the tools and causes them to avoid using them in the future.

On a district level, before you buy a lot of devices or software buy just a few and try them out with pilot groups. Or get some trial software or a small number of licenses and try them with the teachers and schools in your district who are forward thinking with technology. It’s always good to start  with a trial and understand how it will work in your buildings and classrooms.

Managing Devices

The sage on the stage approach doesn’t work with technology.

If you want to have devices in the classroom, you have to be able to see how the students are using those devices. Move, move, move. Be mobile in your classroom. Be active. This keeps kids honest and on track (for the most part).

Take control of your classroom by controlling how and when students use devices. If you’re in a part of your class or lesson that doesn’t require technology then make sure that devices are off and under their seat or in the cart. If they don’t have the devices, they don’t have the temptation. Then when those devices are up - move, move, move.

You can also talk to your IT staff about tools like LAN School that allow you to see every screen in your class right from your computer screen. This is another great way to police student activity on the internet and on those devices.

And the biggest tip I can give you for using devices in the classroom is to require evidence of the work. If you give students a project over a span of time, say a week or two weeks, then require evidence every day. Kids are not unlike us. They will procrastinate and not do the work in class. They will do it all the night before and turn it in. That means they have two weeks to play around on the internet and distract kids in your room.

Require something from them daily. Require evidence or progression. This helps keeps students honest with their devices.

Hopefully these few tips help. I would love to talk to you about more in depth about things you can do in your district or classroom to get the most out of the technology you’re using. Feel free to reach out to me!

About the Author

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Ben Parker

Director, Technology

Ben serves as Director of Technology for the OPSRC. In this role, he will provide support to schools on technical issues and training on pressing technology topics. Ben will assist partner schools with trainings, comprehensive technology plans, e-Rate applications, technology purchasing consultation, and other school and district technology decisions.

Prior to working with OPSRC, Ben was the Director of Technology for the Locust Grove Public School District. Ben implemented a 1:1 tablet program in Locust Grove that saw 6th-12th graders go paperless in the classroom.

In his free time, Ben likes to read and play the drums.

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