Leveraging Technology Tools Effectively with Learners
Technology tool use within your classroom can enhance learning as it enables students the chance to problem solve, think creatively, and engage in multiple educational opportunities. When using technology with learners, routines and structure are highly important. Prepare your space and equipment in advance for each situation that supports how you want to teach. Using tools within your learning environment should fit in with and be an asset to your already well-established classroom management plan. Helping students to understand appropriate uses for and ways to use each tool will be essential in a smooth and meaningful experience.
While introducing and using any technology tool, establish your expectations. Some things to consider:
An important key is making sure the virtual classroom is as much like a face-to-face classroom as possible. Help to do this by eliminating distractions. Students should have cell phones, toys, and any other distractions away. If at all possible, students should be away from siblings (and pets!) too. Have conversations with family members to help them understand the expectations also in order for each student to have the best chance at a quiet and productive virtual learning space.
- How will the tool be used in appropriate ways?
- When will the tool be used?
- Where will students use the tool? (Can it be used in school as well as at home?)
- What purpose does the tool serve within your learning environment? What are its benefits?
Before allowing your students to utilize any type of technology, be sure to explain and model these important basics:
- How to handle and care for devices (laptops, tablets, chargers, etc…)
- Readying their work area (no water bottles nearby, device placed flat on a stable surface, etc…)
- How to login to their device
- Using headphones with certain applications to reduce noise disruptions
- How to save, logoff, and shut down devices
- How to charge and properly store devices
- Discuss school/district policies regarding device and Internet use
After your learners have a solid understanding of the basics above, utilize these tips and tricks to make your technology routine run smoothly. Be willing to try new things and practice with the tools ahead of time to gain familiarity. You might be surprised how user-friendly they are and how helpful they can be for your lessons and goals. By planning ahead, modeling your expectations, and having established learning spaces, helpers, and a few supplies to help you along the way, you will make the most of your students' time and allow them the chance to engage fully in using the tools you select to meet their learning needs.
As learners become familiar with technology tools, some will stand out to you as highly proficient and great problem-solvers. Some students love to lead and work with their peers, and can do so by showing them tips and tricks that they have already discovered and used. Designate one or two Technology Coaches in your classroom. These students will be able to work quietly with a peer to assist in trouble-shooting and offer assistance and encouragement as needed. As a teacher, being available for twenty-five to thirty-five students at once can be difficult. Using Technology Coaches will enable you to focus on other important tasks within the classroom as students work.
Provide each Technology Coach with a necklace/tag to wear, designating to the other learners that the Tech. Coach is available and ready to help them. Establish an organized routine for learners to take turns working with the Tech Coach one at a time. Sticky notes or name magnets placed on the white board or another visible area allows the Tech Coach to know that his or her help is needed. This will also let other students see their place in line as they wait for help.
Red, Yellow, Green:
Another helpful routine is providing students with three cups to stack on their desks: red, yellow, and green. This can signal to the teacher and the technology coach that a student understands the task and is working successfully (green), a student has a question or needs help, but can still keep working currently (yellow), or a student is stuck and cannot go on any further without assistance (red).
At times, students might work with certain tools independently while other learners are completing other projects or tasks. Having an established privacy area that will minimize distractions for other students is important. Students might record themselves or playback media while they are working. This can lead to needless distractions. To minimize this, you can create a privacy tent in a corner or small area of your room. Students will be able to utilize this area independently or in pairs if they are working together to complete a task. An inexpensive play tent can be purchased or you can get creative with spaces in your classroom to make a quiet area.
A Soundproof Space:
Take it a step further and create a soundproof box for your learners to use individually when recording videos or using sounds on their devices. Find a large cardboard box that is big enough for students to sit in. Try asking at hardware or appliance stores for extra boxes that might be getting recycled soon! Cover the interior of the box with one layer of soundproofing material. Any dense material with texture can be soundproof. You can use egg cartons, car soundproofing mats, foam rubber pieces, or soundproofing foam. Again, the hardware store or appliance store might have the perfect (inexpensive) materials for you to use.