By Teachers, For Teachers
Everyone wants teachers to use technology in the classroom. But you're busy -- meeting standards, prepping students for tests -- and maybe you’re not too fond of computers, anyway. Never fear – there are easy ways to bring your classroom up-to-date, technologically.
Prepare for Your Ed Tech Adventure!
What kind of Internet access is available at your school? What are school policies on student use of the Internet?
What do you have to do to get Ipads for your students?
Also try to find a technology “mentor” on campus – the computer teacher or just another teacher who uses technology more than you do. It helps to know there’s someone who can guide you and help you incorporate technology in the classroom if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Perfect Ed Tech Activities for Beginners
Do a PowerPoint “Game Show Review”
Many tech-savvy teachers have used Microsoft PowerPoint to create review games based on famous game shows, including “Jeopardy,” “The Weakest Link,” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” These templates are available online for teachers to download and revise, including their own content. Check out this template or search “powerpoint game show template” online. A fun way to practice using a projector and get your students to review important material!
Have students complete a written classroom activity as if it was online.
Ever have your students write a diary from the perspective of a character or famous person? Why not have them create a blog instead? Take a look at various blog sites (Blogger and WordPress are two of the most popular) and create a template for your students to fill in.
Want students to summarize information? Ask them to tweet the lesson – that is, have them write summaries of 140 characters or less, as if they were writing on Twitter. Or create a template for a web page and ask students to use it to design a webpage about the content they are studying. While these activities don’t actually use technology, they familiarize you – and your students – with the Web 2.0 world, which can be a great first step.
Try a Webquest
A webquest guides students to search the Internet for specific information. For example, students are asked to serve as curators of a museum on a particular topic. They must search the Internet to determine what artifacts belong in their museum and explain their choices.
There are tons of already-constructed webquests out there, a perfect way to teachers to begin integrating Internet searches into their curriculum. Here's a good introduction to the process. Once you get really comfortable with the process, you may even want to create your own!
Good Ed Tech Activities for All Skill Levels
Use technology as a topic for a writing assignment
For younger students, have them write a “how-to” piece about using technology in the classroom. It’s a natural fit, as young people usually have a higher comfort level with technology than many adults. Tell kids to write a piece instructing someone – maybe a grandparent? – on how to send an email, set up an Ipod, or play a video game. For older kids, have them research the impact technology has had on a particular time in history or science or include a unit on science fiction and technology in your Language Arts curriculum.
Create a class webpage
A class webpage can be anything from a basic site where you post announcements (think “online bulletin board”) to a much more elaborate one that includes class photos, a class blog, downloadable materials, and your own domain name. For those of you just starting out, try Scholastic’s free Home Page Builder (http://teacher.scholastic.com/homepagebuilder/). Those of you with a little more experience may enjoy Webs.com (http://www.webs.com/), which offers both free and premium service packages.
Use an online grading system
While some schools are mandating the shift to web-based gradebooks, you don’t have to wait to try one out. Sites like MyGradebook.com (http://www.mygradebook.com) offer the opportunity to track grades, record attendance and seating charts, and compile reports on student progress. You can also email students and parents directly to allow them to view their updated grades. Never worry again about bringing home your gradebook – you can access it from any computer.
Do an email exchange
When we were kids, some teachers had class penpals or had you practice your penmanship by writing a letter to an author. Try the 21st-century version of that by instituting an email exchange. Have your students exchange emails with students in another school, city, state, or country – especially valuable if both sets of students are studying the same material. Or arrange for a group of experts to accept emails from your students on a particular topic. Students who fail to see the “real world implications” of math or science may develop new interest if you can put them in touch with a video game designer, astronaut, or engineer who uses those skills every day. And for adults who might want to volunteer but feel pressed for time, email can be a great way to help out, since they can respond on their own schedule.
Give multimedia presentations – or have your students give them
Liven up a traditional lecture by using a PowerPoint presentation that incorporates photographs, diagrams, sound effects, music, or video clips. For high school teachers, consider having your students develop presentations as a review tool before semester exams. Their work may be so good that you will want to use it in future classes!
Supplement your lessons
When you’ve taught the same material for awhile, you – and your students – may find it less-than-exciting. A quick Internet search may help you identify ways to supplement your lessons with interesting new material. Make a habit of searching before you begin each new unit. You may find photographs, sound clips, video clips, and more that can bring your lessons to life. Many museums now offer online “virtual tours” and teachers are constantly developing new presentations and webquests, which are posted online. Add these in to keep your lessons fresh.
Advanced Ed Tech Activities
Create a class blog or wiki
Take appropriate precautions for Internet safety, but a class blog or wiki can be a great way to integrate technology in the classroom and develop student knowledge. Some teachers use blogs to drive outside-of-class discussion – particularly helpful for AP/IB students who are motivated but short on class time.
A wiki is a website that uses software which allows many different people to edit it (think Wikipedia). Have your students work together to create a wiki on a topic they are studying. They will need to correct each other’s work and collaborate in order to make it a success.
Listen to – or create – a Podcast.
There are thousands of podcasts available on the Web. Search for ones that meet your students’ needs. Some colleges are offering professors’ lectures via podcast, which can be great for advanced students. In other cases, you may be able to find an interview with the author of a book your students are reading, or other supplemental material. Make arrangements to download it and play it for your students. For the really ambitious, have students create their own podcasts to document their progress through the year or discuss their ideas on a variety of issues pertaining to the course.
“Publish” your students’ work
Tools exist today to allow your students to create really professional looking work using a desktop computer. Have students create a short film, run an ongoing class website that features student work and opinions, or – if they’re really ambitious – raise the money to have their work professionally published by a self-publishing company like iUniverse or Lulu.
No matter what your skill level, integrating technology in the classroom offers the chance to increase student interest and teach valuable professional skills – and have some fun!
What ways do you use technology in the classroom? Share in the comments section!