When contemplating how to incorporate new technologies into the classroom, the task can seem pretty daunting at first. After all, the learning curve can look steep, and teachers have been reaching students without the benefit of shiny gizmos for centuries now. But as changes amass – both in options for educators and the challenges facing students upon graduation, a greater number of teachers are finding that the benefits of utilizing technology make implementing it well worth the effort. The effects can be pleasantly surprising once you learn to harness technology’s power. Still, learning how to effectively use digital devices in your classroom won’t happen overnight. So here are five tips to help you fuse technology into your classroom.
1. Get familiar. The more you familiarize yourself with the technological tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you’ll be to use them. One training session isn’t going to make anyone a pro at anything. Much like any other type of learning, becoming comfortable with new technology is an ongoing process. So make working with new devices and tools a regular part of your planning time, even if it’s not in the form of formal training.
2. Explore these tools with your students. After all, as digital natives, they’re likely much more adept with these technologies than you may be. And having the opportunity to reverse roles and teach you something can give your students a new perspective. However, just because they can show you how certain devices work doesn’t mean they know how to use them for learning and collaborating. That’s where you come in.
3. Not every student has to have his or her own device to be part of a blended learning environment. The goal of blended learning is to increase student productivity and improve student outcomes. You can help make this shift by evaluating students’ needs and creating an environment that’s more focused on addressing individual learning styles. Take some time to figure out how to best allocate the time and technological tools you do have so that all of your students can benefit. As a result, you’ll increase learning opportunities and waste less time on skills that certain students have already mastered.
4. Don’t be afraid of your technology failing … because it will. Which explains why this is the single biggest reason teachers don’t incorporate more digital learning into their classrooms in the first place. But as long as you have a non-digital backup plan – and know who to talk to about fixing your digital devices – you’ll be good to go when something goes awry. But before you call in the big guns, try troubleshooting during class. Taking five minutes to try to figure it out on your own (or with your students’ help) may not only get you back on track but also help model patience and problem-solving for your students. So, in the end, maybe that tech hiccup isn’t such a time-waster after all.
5. Evaluate your changes to make sure what you’re doing is making a difference. Are you and your class simply doing things more efficiently, or are you doing things you couldn’t before? Are your students gaining a deeper understanding of the content? Another benefit of incorporating technology into your classroom is the ability to use it for immediate assessment and feedback. Having instant access to the data these technologies can provide (and being able to quickly see themes and patterns) can present a more accurate view of how well students are grasping the content and inform you as to whether or not it’s time to move on. It also allows you to share more comprehensive and on-the-spot feedback with students that will help them see areas where they need to focus. This real-time information can also save hours of the hand-grading and manual data entry it would otherwise take to glean these insights.
Putting these tips into practice and regularly evaluating how things are going will allow for more opportunities to tweak things, if necessary. This cyclical teaching style of planning, implementing, evaluating and improving will help you create a more personalized learning environment where you have more control of your options – and your students can take more control of their learning.