By Teachers, For Teachers
I was reading an article -- Five Real Reasons Why Teachers Don't Use Technology More --from eSchool News listing the reasons why teachers don't use technology in the classroom.
Included were some excuses that probably resonate with educators at your school:
I was nodding, thinking of people the reasons fit perfectly--and then I noticed: The article was written in 1999!
That's right -- 15 years ago -- and nothing's changed.
Have you been giving the same reasons for 15 years too, hoping the tech demons will just go away and leave you to teach in peace? Every June, do you say, “I got through another year without this or that tech tool -- and everything went well”?
But did it go well? Take a moment to think. Did students seem engaged, motivated, involved? Were there a few more (again) of your colleagues who went to the dark side, started using (this or that) tech tools, and seemed excited by doing so?
Isn't it time? This year, right now, stop giving the same tired excuses for why you can’t use technology in the classroom.
Here are the top reasons why teachers use technology:
If even only one of those reasons resonates with you, it's time to see what all the fuss is about. I can make it easy to get started. Here are five projects designed to get you to integrate technology into your classs -- one or more will surely work perfectly.
You're busy, trying to close out the last class as the next one arrives. You can't really stop what you're doing, but if you don't finish, it'll be a wasted five minutes.
Have a warmup exercise on your Smartscreen, showing students what they should do the first five minutes of class. Pick an activity students can accomplish on their own, without teacher direction. It can be one they learned during the last class or last year.
Here are some ideas:
By the way, if your school uses Responsive Classroom, this is a great tie-in (except for the part of it being teacher-led).
Research supports the effectiveness of quick assessments in improving student retention -- a couple of minutes, or just one or two questions. Objectively, it makes sense. Offer quick, one-question exit tickets before students can leave the classroom. It can be typed into a class discussion board, posted on a sticky note on the class bulletin board, or answered through Today's Meet or Socrative, or shared via Google Apps.
To the uninitiated, “simulations” could easily be confused with “games.” Those are the wildly popular, neverending, multilevel programs where characters try to advance through a series of events until they eventually “win” (whatever that means in the program's environment). Simulations also have levels and characters. Everything else is different.
Simulations include elements of a story -- characters, a plot, an interesting setting that plays a part in the program. The theme revolves around an education topic -- civics, history, or science. Students are asked to jump into the story and make decisions about how it progresses, defend their decisions, experience the consequences of that and rethink if necessary. It requires critical thinking and problem solving to move through levels (where “games” require skill, not necessarily cerebral). It often requires an understanding of the big picture, collaboration with others, and the ability to make a plan and deliver on it. Simulations keep student attention while teaching a particular topic.
Sound too good to be true? The only pothole along this journey is that teachers must be knowledgeable in picking the simulations, insure that they deliver on the promise to be educational. Here's a list to get you started. You can also check your favorite tech ed forums, see what real teachers have used and enjoyed. Some of my favorites are:
Blogging is an all-purpose activity that teach students writing, reading, speaking and listening, critical thinking, problem-solving -- and that's just a start. Ed-oriented blogs like Kidblogs and Edublogs make it easy for students to express their thoughts not only with words, but images, color, movement, video, audio, multimedia. And blogging satisfies at least a dozen Common Core standards in such a fun way, students don't realize their learning.
If you decide to try blogging with your students this year, introduce it and then turn it over to them. See where they take it. Let them organize, plan, supervise, self-monitor. They'll do the work. You'll watch them grow.
This is such a great organization technique, I don't know why every school doesn't use it. A class internet start page is the landing page where students end up when they click the “Internet” button. It takes them here, their web portal, and is the place where you have their undivided attention. Here, you offer selections, directions, advice. You make it a safe Internet experience that is transferable from school to home (because it's simply a website address).
My class Internet start page is where students find the day's websites, get acceptable websites to visit if they finish early, access standard school materials like online textbooks, and more. I even add images from the class play and video of the school's orchestra concert. Once the page is set up, it only takes a short amount of weekly time to maintain. And, because it can serve all classes, other teachers can participate.
More on quick assessments? Check out The Digital Shift. They have a long list of varied approaches -- one is sure to fit.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.