By Teachers, For Teachers
We all make mistakes when using technology in the classroom. With so many new devices and updates available on a consistent basis, it’s inevitable that we stumble while adapting to something new.
But despite the growing pains, there are some mistakes we can avoid when using technology in the classroom; some embarrassing—even hazardous— errors that create awkward moments for you and your pupils.
And they appear on the screen in front of students. Tablets have settings for “Notifications” that allow certain updates—like e-mails, messages, and tweets—to automatically appear on your screen for a few moments. These notifications can be very helpful, but not necessarily a great thing when you’re screen-sharing during instruction. Your class will see the pop-ups, and you’ll be praying that no one sends you anything embarrassing!
New apps and websites are exciting to incorporate and, most times, are a surefire homerun for your lesson. But if you fail to try it out thoroughly first, then you may find yourself spending your whole class period just trying to get it working for students. This is a waste of time for you and them.
We teachers are so friendly that we are so quick to say “Here, use my device” to a needy student. But what if you didn’t close out of that game you were playing? Or what if you left your Twitter or Facebook feed open? Or what if that article you were reading about your embarrassing medical problem were still up? Your student could potentially see those items. #awkward
The only thing worse than purposely purchasing something in an app is accidentally doing so. We all know those ads pop up so quickly and our fingers fly so fast that we can scarcely avoid punching the “Buy” button when we were looking for that “X.” But you can go to your settings to shut down your ability to make in-app purchases.
If you’re using a district-issued device, then there is no doubt that they know what kind of material you are accessing. So think twice before you click on that suspicious link.
Whether we are trying to help a student do something or enforcing a consequence, spontaneously grabbing a student’s tablet from them is never a good idea. Even if the device is meant to be used for school purposes, students use them for very personal reasons as well. You never know what kind of content your student has recently accessed, what messages they have been sending, or what they were really doing when they were supposed to be working. Ask to take the tablet first and have them close out anything they don’t want you to see.
You are using your device for a number of purposes, but is your data backed up? You never know when the device may crash, when an unfortunate update deletes your information, or when you just drop the thing into a pool of lava. Updating a few settings on the tablet will make sure that your data is also stored online rather than solely in the device.
There are enormous opportunities for information sharing, but not all content is created equal. You must exercise extreme caution in the links you send your students. Even if the information you share is reputable, the website that it’s hosted on may cause its own dilemma. Carefully check your links to make sure that the organizations are credible, that they don’t contain inappropriate material in other portions of their site, and that even the advertisements feature appropriate links and images.
And perhaps one of the biggest mistakes teachers make is expecting students to automatically master an app and use it to complete classwork. Instead of saying, “Download this app and do this big task with it,” teachers should start small and allow students to play with the app and complete small tasks with it first before trying anything more ambitious.
Just so you know, I have made ALL of these mistakes. Fortunately, there were no major classroom hiccups and they usually gave my students (and me) a good laugh. But you never know—one misstep can create a rather embarrassing moment that has larger repercussions. Learn from my mishaps and be warned!
What are your biggest tech mistakes? Can you relate to my list, or do you have other embarrassing errors you’ve learned from? Tell us your story in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.