As more and more educators embrace the use of technology within the classroom to guide instruction and engage learners, it can become overwhelming at times for educators to find the best, most effective ways to use those tech tools with their students. There is a distinct difference between simply having a ‘tech-rich’ classroom and utilizing technology in meaningful ways to guide effective instruction that leads to successful student outcomes.
I have been fortunate to work within classrooms across the world that are striving to maximize the use of education technology to effect positive student outcomes. I consistently get asked by educators and administrators alike, “what are some of the most effective tips or tricks that you have seen when trying to best use technology within the classroom?” While each education technology implementation is different, there are some common themes that I have listed below, that I see leveraged within high-performing schools that can be easily adopted into practice in any school or classroom. These tips are really designed for any educator/administrator who is looking to refine or strengthen their use of education technology at his/her school or classroom.
1. Plan for the Use of Technology within the Classroom
While on the surface this may seem like an obvious statement, many educators who are working to integrate education technology within the classroom do not have the time necessary to define how tech tools are meant to enhance classroom instruction. Providing educators with high-quality training around exactly how the technology is designed to be used within the classroom can transform an instructor’s teaching processes.
Simply handing out a set of classroom iPads with little or no training on how that tool can be used to facilitate effective instruction is like handing someone who does not know how to drive the keys to a brand new car. It is critical to provide not only initial training on the new technology to educators, but also to provide ongoing, collaborative training that focus on topics such as “Change Management” and “Data-Driven Instruction”.
Using technology within the classroom is a process and it is not one that is learned overnight. Providing high-quality professional development opportunities to educators who are looking to enhance their classroom instruction techniques using technology, is quite possibly the most important thing you can do to ensure you are getting the most out of that technology within the classroom.
2. Use Technology to Gather Meaningful Student Data
One of the most powerful aspects of using technology within the classroom is the ability to quickly gather meaningful student data and feedback. Classrooms that relied in the past on teachers hand-scoring sometimes hundreds of assessments on a daily basis, can now use the power of technology to gather that student feedback in a matter of minutes.
Educators now have the ability to gather that student data and then interpret it to make adjustments on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis in how they approach classroom instruction. The power and speed with which educators can differentiate instruction for students within the classroom using technology is simply unprecedented. It is really not about simply having access to a set of computers or iPads within the classroom now, it is all about how you as an educator use them to provide learning experiences that are engaging and reflective of your particular student’s skills and abilities. Gathering student data and feedback using technology in the classroom is essential and it is one way that you can quickly make an enormous difference in how your students learn and grow.
3. Educate Everyone on How to Use Technology to Support Learning
Too often, I see technology being rolled out to teachers and students only to leave one critical group out of the communication loop – a student’s parent/family. Effectively using technology in the classroom extends beyond just the school grounds, it permeates to the student’s home as well. Taking the time to educate your student’s parent/family about what types of classroom technology will be used, what impacts it can have and how parents/families can support the use of technology within the classroom is critical.
Hosting a “Parent Technology Night” is a great way to help not only educate your students’ parent/family, it can also work to start a higher level of conversation at home about issues including good digital citizenship and safe internet browsing. The more you can take the time to educate your students and their parent/families about the use of technology within the classroom, the more effective your education technology implementation will be.