Using technology can make your class awesome. It can engage your students in the lessons and make ordinary tasks more interesting. However, you should be careful. If you use too much technology or for the wrong reasons, it will backfire.
Every teacher will have a better experience with technology by knowing what tools to use and when to use them.
Have I Used Too Many?
One of the most positive and effective changes I ever made to my teaching was to start using technology. For many years, I used tools like Evernote to keep track of lesson plans and Schoology to keep my curriculum organized. In the spring of 2014, I wanted to do more. I started asking students to use their cell phones daily to look up world news events. I then moved onto Kahoot. After positive results, I wanted to see how else I could use technology to engage students.
For the 2014–2015 year, I used whatever tool I could to help make my lessons more exciting and engaging. It was made all the easier when I began piloting Chromebooks half way through the year. Needless to say, I used a lot of different tools. How many? I used: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Keep, Remind, iMovie, Kahoot, Youtube, Piktochart, Hstry, Tagul, Wordle, Actively Learn, Schoology, Classcraft, a customized class leaderboard with Google Sheets. 21 in total.
What I Learned From Choosing Classroom Tools
Using those 21 different tools taught me a lot about what to use and when to use it.
Enhancement. Using technology can make an average lesson good and a good lesson awesome.
Familiarity. The other key lesson I learned from my technology immersion experiment was that while tools might be easy for me to navigate, I shouldn’t have expected the same experience for my students. There were many times when students voiced their frustration when confronted with a new “confusing” tool.
Speed. When I found a new tool, I wanted to dive right in and figure out all the cool ways it could help enhance my lesson. I would learn a tool within a couple hours and then be ready to start using it in class. When I used it with students, I often forgot that it took me an hour or two to figure everything out. I would often expect students to become familiar in 10 minutes. I have since slowed down and showed them many of the basics of whatever tool I use. I can no longer just assume that because I can move fast, all my student can as well.
Toolbox. Did I use too many different tools? I am clearly biased, but I don’t think so. I think that the way I approached the tools and the speed I expected adoption were unreasonable but the number was not. There are a lot of different ways learning history can be made more exciting and there is clearly a tool for every need. I surveyed students often about the technology and the feedback was overall positive. The trick is finding the right one for the right need.
3 Questions For Choosing Classroom Technology Tools
The other aspect of my experiment was the actual finding and testing of different tools and approaches. Wading through the ocean of technology could have easily been a part-time job for me last year. For me, it was fun but I understand that most educators don’t have the time or interest in doing so.
When choosing tech tools, it is easy to fall into the trap of choosing tech for tech’s sake. To avoid this trap, use these 3 key question to help you decide:
1. Does this tool help students or is it just being used for technology’s sake?
2. How easily can the tool be set up?
3. Will it be enjoyable for the students?
When choosing, if all three are answered yes, then go forward with your techno-experiment. If the tool is everything you need but not fun, see if there are other options. Technology should make life easier, not more of a grind. Remember, if the tool is fun for you and the students, the students will be more engaged and more likely to be successful in your lesson.
How To Find The Right Tools
If you are looking for ideas on how to find the right tool, here are some helpful hints.
1. Use your colleagues. Seek out those other teachers in your school already experimenting with tools.
2. Use your online communities. If you are the pioneer yourself, there are online communities of teachers that can help you. Websites Edmodo, Schoology, and Twitter offer large communities of teachers already testing out the very strategies you might be looking to implement.
3. Use online resources Edsurge is an awesome website detailing the latest news in education technology. They have a fantastic index and a handy search tool. Need to find a tool for “Classroom Efficiency” or “Language Arts”? It’s all there. Narrow down what you want and see a list of tools.
Choosing classroom technology tools can be challenging. When it becomes stressful just remember, the right tool implemented the right way will make your teaching better and your students will learn better.
Question: What suggestions do you have about choosing the right tool for your classroom?