As preparations begin for a new school year, it is important to think intentionally about the ways in which you will use instructional technology to support student learning. Learning technologies are ubiquitous and have the power to transform teaching to create innovative content, engage students, and efficiently assess student growth.
It can be both exciting and overwhelming to sift through the innumerable edtech tools that are constantly emerging. Also, the amount of edtech tools available vary widely in terms of functionality, availability, and cost, and new teachers who are already consumed with navigating other onboarding experiences may not know where to start.
These edtech tips are designed to get new teachers started with purposeful implementation of digital tools in their classrooms to transform learning experiences.
1. Keep student learning at the core
Everything we do in the classroom must be grounded in learning! We are not using edtech tools because they are widely available or fun to use, although these are certainly advantages to using any tool. We are using edtech tools because they can help to more efficiently or effectively assist students in learning. Before you decide on a tool to use, answer these questions: What do you want students to learn as a result of instruction? How will a specific type of edtech tool aid in this effort?
2. Leverage the SAMR model
Developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR Model provides a framework for technology integration at 4 levels: substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. The SAMR model illustrates that technology does not always need to be used to modify or redefine learning through artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality, for example. Technology can be just as useful at the substitution level or argumentation level, by having students record presentations online instead of standing in front of the class. Through the recordings, students will have the chance to go back and see themselves and grading can be more comprehensive as you have the opportunity to go back and review presentations.
3. Focus on tool functionality
You do not have to try every new tool that emerges. Focus on how the functionality of the tool will improve teaching and learning in some way. Hundreds of edtech tools have a similar function. For example, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet are all video conferencing tools that can be used for live synchronous class or peer learning activities. This means that you do not have to use only Zoom as Teams and Google Meet have similar functions. Think about the function of the technology that you would need to carry out the lesson, and then start looking for tools that would be an option.
4. Confirm device-compatibility requirements
Be sure to determine what type of device(s) are compatible with your selected tool, before implementation. You do not want to spend time planning an incredible lesson with the support of an edtech tool that works only on tablets when your students have access only to Chromebooks.
5. Test first
Preparation is key in teaching. We know this and it is why we lesson and unit plan well in advance of carrying out instruction. The same goes for using edtech tools. Before using one in class, try its various features and functions. You will be better positioned to respond to questions from your students about the tool and having that experience will make the implementation in class with students more seamless.
6. Consider alternatives
Do not get stuck in using only one edtech tool. Remember, you are using a tool to help students meet the learning objectives, not just for the sake of trying the newest and coolest tool available. Maybe you want to measure students’ ability to use their critical-thinking skills to respond to questions. You initially choose Poll Everywhere because of the functionality of creating polls, but realize that some of the advanced functions require a paid membership. You could try Kahoot! instead since it has a similar function, and then can see if the desired functions are available with the free version.
7. Screencast demos
When introducing new edtech tools to students, you will often find yourself repeating instructions and demonstrating processes. A more efficient way to do this is to use screencasting technologies. This not only saves time but also can be helpful to families if you are requiring students to use a tool at home.
8. Collaborate with colleagues
Work with your grade partners and other teachers in your school as much as possible. Chances are, you will not be the only one using edtech tools to support student learning. Other teachers may be using the same tool in different ways that you have not previously considered, or using tools you have not heard of yet. Exchange ideas and best practices, which will result in your own informal professional development.
9. Implement one tool at a time
There may be some temptation to try several edtech tools at once, but try to resist the urge. We do not want to compromise the learning experience and spend too much time acclimating students to a new tool each day. This takes away from learning, which is at the crux of the educational experience. As students gain fluency with using each edtech tool, you can introduce more.
10. Plan for troubleshooting
Technology is great when it works, but there can always be hiccups–even if we do plan in advance. If the internet stops working or a feature within the edtech tool loses its functionality, we need to be able to pivot quickly. Have a plan in place to do so.
11. Utilize tech & learning as a resource hub
Having accessible and practical resources available throughout the school year can be extremely beneficial to your own professional development. Continue to use Tech and Learning as a resource, with tons of curated content to support teaching and learning in your classroom.
Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai is an associate professor of teacher education at Neumann University in Pennsylvania, and former teacher holding K-12 instructional certifications in Technology Education, Instructional Technology, Special Education, Elementary Education, and Computers, Business and Information Technology. Dr. Budhai has more than a decade of online teaching experience, and has published dozens of books, articles, and invited editorials surrounding the use of technology and online learning in education and holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from Drexel University.
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