Too often we treat tech like it’s an add-on, or the latest shiny object to be flashed before our students. However, a paper worksheet is the same as a worksheet that appears on an iPad and just using the device in this way is wasteful.
Unfortunately, many schools who are lucky enough to get excellent new technology make the assumption that all kids and/or teachers know what to do with it. They say, “Great news! You’re getting a chromebook cart. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!”
Some teachers (like myself) may be very excited by this prospect, others may be terrified.
Since tech is here to stay, and is ever changing, it’s time we use it to meet kids where they are and enhance our learning environments by infusing different aspects of tech into our practice as opposed to just using it as a means to an end.
Here are 5 ways you can make tech a part of the learning and increase student engagement:
- GAFE (Google Apps for Education): Using GAFE will promote student collaboration and empowerment and help your classroom become paperless. Providing space for students to develop organizational skills and also learn to collaborate in real time. We can use GAFE for a host of activities from giving students a place to complete assignment in lieu of notebooks, to full on collaboration and feedback putting students in charge of their own learning. It’s not just Google docs, it’s slides, forms, sheets etc as well as a whole host of other applications that can help differentiate learning. This learning suite can also be a great place for students to develop multi-part portfolios that will show their progress over time.
- Content specific apps that allow for great differentiation: Depending on the age and level of your students, there are many apps both on through the Android in the Play Store and in the Apple’s app store to get free apps to support student learning. Then you can allow students to play games and learn content at a pace and in a way that is appropriate and specific to their needs. Gamification is a great way to engage students in the learning process and teach them a growth mindset. Often when students play games they are more tenacious and less likely to give up. We can really nurture frustration tolerance in this way.
- Multimedia for presentation and production: Although we may love the sounds of our own voices, we can also include technology in the way we deliver our content. Students respond well to video and audio while learning and by having these visual or auditory helps handy, offers us a chance to model our thinking while we watch together to really connect ideas. Additionally, when students create and synthesize their learning, using different media can engage their creativity while showing what they know.
- Podcasting in tandem with writing: If we want to teach students about storytelling or interviewing, there are many ways we can do it. Using podcasting in class, we can both model excellent storytelling without the use of our eyes. This allows students to engage their imaginations in a different way while they learn different author’s craft or content that they can talk about. Podcasts are a great way for kids to either listen to information and actively take it in while they are on the go or tell stories of their own creatively. (The next major assignment my students will be working on is in this format... stay tuned in the coming weeks).
- Cell phones and social media: It’s not just the software we use, it’s also the hardware. So many of our students have and use cell phones, but they don’t know how to use them for learning or any other academic purposes. We can easily make that learning transparent by showing them how to use these smart devices to help them learn. Whether it is participating in a Twitter chat or corresponding with an author or activist, students can go to the social media sites they are already on and use it to gain knowledge and not just popularity. Model how we use these tools and allow them to incorporate them into the learning. I’m big on using a class hashtag to include more folks in conversations and to make learning visible. Having discussions curated in this way, also allows students to go back and revisit what we discussed later. In this same way, if we live stream group presentations and/or discussions on apps like Periscope, students have a record of class time and even absentee students can participate.
Although getting the technology into student and teacher hands is only a part of the battle, schools and systems must take the time to really train teachers on how to use the devices and software provided. The more confident teachers feel with the technology, the more likely they are to engage students with them, otherwise, they become very expensive worksheets. We can’t expect teachers or students to have an innate understanding of how to use technology for learning even if they know the fundamentals of how tech works.
The same way teaching is an art and not just anyone can do it, teaching with tech takes knowledge and creativity and a willingness to take risks in order to explore learning differently.
How do you use tech creatively in your school? Please share
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.