Choosing Technology for the Classroom – What’s a Teacher to Do?

By:  Rachel Redman

 

“As of 2009, 97% of teachers have one or more computers in the classroom, and 93% of computers in the classroom have access to the Internet.”

“U.S. schools are expected to purchase 3.5 million tablets by the end of 2014” (Team, 2015).

 

It is clear that 21st century technology tools have invaded our classrooms and are not going away.  Teachers are faced with a myriad of choices about which tools would best suit their classroom needs.  So how does one decide which tools to focus on?  With new hardware and software being created by the minute, it can be very overwhelming to promote technology use in the classroom, while being rigorous and discerning in the tools you are choosing to use.  There are three simple steps that a teacher can follow in order to have a plan in mind to implement technology effectively.

Step One: 

“The technology needs to be accessible and readily available” (Edutopia, 2007).

As a third grade teacher who is looking at how to incorporate technology into my classroom, my first question is “what technology tools are available to me right now?”  I have one classroom iPad, with additional access to 10 more on a sign-out basis.  Each iPad has Explain Everything and PicCollage as the standard presentation apps.  My class also has an Edmodo page where I post homework.  There is also access to any online platforms that do not require log-ins or that I can log the class into (e.g., Padlet, Prezi).  So I know that I do not have 1:1 tools per student, which means I need to plan strategically for my technology use.  Now I need to think about how it can support my curricular goals and my students.

Step Two:

“The technology needs to support the curriculum goals” (Edutopia, 2007).

I move on to looking at my curricular goals.  When making a plan to utilize the technology that I have access to, I need to start with the “development of a clear conception of the desired outcomes” (Emory, 2014).  The questions I am asking myself here are:

  1. Which subject area(s) am I looking to support with this technology?
  2. How do I want to use the technology; for research purposes, to present information, to connect with each other or other people outside of the community, or part of all three?

The answers to these questions will affect how I decide to use the technology I have at my disposal.  At the end of the day, the curriculum is what drives my instruction and has to remain the central focus when using the technology.  I want to avoid using technology just for the sake of using it; it has to fit in with what I am required to teach.

Step Three:

“The integration needs to be routine and transparent” (Edutopia, 2007).

Finally, the technology use needs to become a part of the regular day in the classroom.  If I am expecting my students to use the technology as a part of their learning, I have to make it part of the fabric of our everyday life at school.  I also have to be extremely clear about my goals and intentions for the students with the technology.  “Assessment should be based in authentic performance-based tasks” (Emory, 2014, p. 124).  For this, I need to be very clear about the characteristics and evidence I am looking for in the students’ work, so that everyone in the room is on the same page in terms of the learning goals and ways to demonstrate understanding.

A Plan for the Year…

In my specific context, I want my students to become comfortable with two really basic skills:  research and presentation.  These two skills pop up in many of my curriculum documents, and also rate as important 21st Century Learning Goals.  Thus, when I am looking at what technology I have readily available and accessible, I want to keep these two key factors in mind.  I can then formulate these two goals into big guiding questions:

  1. How can we become better researchers?
  2. How can we become better presenters?

I can make these questions an over-arching focus for the entire year, and incorporate them into all of my more specific curricular unit plans.  This would involve teaching and experimenting with online research, including lessons about the pitfalls that are possible in this area.  This would also involve experimenting with our apps and other online platforms for creativity, including lessons about what looks good on the screen, how to catch the reader’s interest, and how to select appropriate pictures and images.  Overall, if I focus on two really basic but rich goals, and know my available technology really well, I should be able to integrate the technology to a seamless level where “students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content” (Edutopia, 2007).

References

Edutopia. (2007, November 5). What is successful technology integration? Edutopia:

Emory, J. (2014).  Understanding backwards design to strengthen curricular models.  Nurse Educator, 39(3), 122-125.

Team, E. T. (2015, April 28). A beautiful visual on the impact of technology on today’s classrooms. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning:

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Author: rachelredman1979

Rachel Redman is an elementary school teacher with the Peel District School Board. She has taught grades 2, 3 and 4 over her 13-year​ career. Rachel also has obtained her Reading Specialist, and is currently working towards her Masters of Education at UOIT.

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