There’s a common misconception that new teachers are much better with technology because they have been using it for most of their lives. As a technology director for a public school system, I am here to tell you that the perception is not as accurate as you might think. In my experience, new teachers are more comfortable with everyday technologies such as email, social media, and smart phones. They are often very inexperienced when it comes to educational technologies though. Here are a few bits of technology advice for teachers about to start their first year in the classroom.
- Always have a backup plan – Technology doesn’t always work the way we expect. It’s frustrating enough when that happens in your personal life, but it can be far worse when you are standing in front of a room full of students. Always make sure you have a backup lesson plan that uses traditional, non-technology based tools so you are not scrambling when things don’t go as planned.
- Check Your Links – Similar to the point above, take a few minutes to check the web links you plan to use in class several days prior to using them. Every school district has different policies when it comes to how they filter the Internet. Those links that work great on your couch at home may be blocked at school. If they are not working, check with your IT department. Many times, a simple request to have them unblocked will take care of the issue. If that doesn’t work, consider finding new resources or downloading the content ahead of time.
3. Don’t force it – Classroom technology is fantastic when it is used in a meaningful way to engage students. On the other side of that coin, do not use technology for the sake of using it. Create your lessons in a way that will provide students most authenticate, engaging learning experience. If you can accomplish that with a great app, site, or device, go for it! If not, find a different approach that best fits your needs. Using technology without a specific purpose will lead to lower engagement, increased students off task, and lackluster learning.
4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Instead of spending hours creating a lesson plan for your Smartboard, Mimio, iPad, or Chromebook, check to see what is already available. There are tons of free resources out there (Smart Exchange, Chromebook Lessons) as well as premium sites like TeachersPayTeachers where you can purchase existing lesson plans. You can also check with teachers in your building or educational colleagues to see what lessons they’ve previously used.
5. Take Advantage of Social Media – Social media is an awesome resource to begin developing your personal learning network (PLN). You’ve most likely used sites like Twitter and Pinterest in your personal life for years as a way to share information with friends. You can use that same sharing philosophy to create a network of professional friends and colleagues who teach in the same content area. Make sure to use hashtags your profile like #teacher or #educator so people with similar interest can find you. You can also look for and participate in Twitter chats dedicated to your subject area to help you find others in your field.
6. Implement an LMS – A learning management system, or LMS for short, is an online extension of your classroom. Colleges have been using them for years and it would be surprising to hear that you didn’t use one wherever you attended school. It’s a place where students can do things like
- Take formative or summative assessments
- Post questions to the teacher or the whole class
- Locate resources made available to them such a worksheets, links, or videos.There are many options available including Blackboard, Moodle, and Google Classroom. Some are free, others will cost a small fee. Before you get started though, check to see what your district offers. Odd are there’s a preferred system. Once you know what you’re going to use, take the time to really get to know what you can do with the system. It’s worth investing the time upfront to build a stellar online classroom for you and your students.
7. Give Your Students A Choice – Students rarely have the opportunity to have a say in their learning. Leverage technology to give your students a voice. Create online polls using Google Forms that lets them choose from a variety of options for a particular lesson. For example, when teaching the civil war, ask them they would rather create a simulated text message conversation between two generals in the army or a fictitious breakings news report on a battlefield victory. Students will love the opportunity to choose their activity rather than just being told what to do.
8. Ask IT For Help – Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the IT department for help or ideas. The technicians in your districts IT department spend all day helping teachers with technology in their classrooms. You’d be surprised at what they’ve seen used, demonstrated, or setup in class that might be a perfect fit for what you are trying to do. If you are having a problem with technology, make sure you submit a ticket asking for assistance. The techs are happy to help you. On those same lines though, don’t be scared to try a few things to fix the problem yourself. Close the program and open it back up. Check to make sure the cables are plugged in correctly. Restart the computer. It is very unlikely that you will do something they can’t undo or fix.
We hope you enjoyed our tech tips for teachers. These are truly great tips for new teachers, veteran teachers and everyone in between. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.