You’ve probably seen it in your school–teachers who have lots of techie devices in their classroom but use them primarily for sponge time, spare minutes, fill-in. It’s not integrated into the lessons, rather a play activity ‘when students have time’. I call it ‘babysitting’.
More and more, that is unacceptable. Common Core casually includes tech and digital tools dozens of times in the Standards as though they are part of a toolkit teachers turn to when communicating concepts. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Sara Stringer addresses this disparity below. I like that term–‘high tech’. It fits. Like ‘higher order thinking’ does in lessons:
As technology expands, it needs to be embraced in the classroom. We’re past the days of overhead projectors and simple chalkboards. The time has come to utilize the tools in front of us so that students may learn more effectively. We’ve moved into the age of digital learning.
Ideally, all classrooms would be fitted with the latest and greatest technology at our disposal. While we may not be able to provide each student with all of the technology the world possesses, we can still explore what options will work best for each classroom.
The selection for devices varies largely on how the schools plan to implement them. Tablets and netbooks have taken wide popularity- namely iPads and Chromebooks. Some schools prefer the security and versatility of iPads while others prefer the functionality of Chromebooks, which feature full keyboards. Figure out which platform works best for the classroom and go from there.
Many schools can not afford to equip each of the students with a new device so they’re implementing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program that allows the parents to make the investment rather than the school. Largely, this is contingent on the school’s budgetary constraints. Government grants may also be available.
Another great classroom tool is the Smart Board, which is a high tech interactive white board. Essentially, it allows you to share a computer’s display but you can also create directly on the board or use touch functionality to control the computer.
Software varies widely based on the device chosen, but many options are cross platform. Many schools are looking to move away from the cost of physical school books and have instead leaned towards digital books. These books not only save substantial amounts of money, but also allow students the most recent information through simple updates. It also prevents students from leaving them at school or at home while saving them the weight of carrying half a dozen books around.
In addition to school books and workbooks, daily task planners are even available digitally. Meridian Planners, for example, offers a service called Prime that allows students, teachers, and parents to all communicate and share school lessons and general information. Such software take a generalized learning approach while others focus on specific lessons.
- Duolingo (Elementary School-Adult) Free- Teaches foreign language through stylized games and social competition
- Lynda (High School-Adult) Membership- Teaches various lessons including business, web design and development, and photography
- Funbrain.com (Elementary School) Free- Basic games for early education learning
- Monkey In The Middle (Middle School) Free or Paid– Breaks down each subject by grade and has different apps to supplement lessons.
- Scholastic.com (Elementary) Free- Various games teach children basic lessons, often with well recognized characters
- Khan Academy (High School-Adult) Free- Features various lessons including over 3500 videos.
- Easel.ly (Middle School-Adult) Free- Software creates infographics that can be used to display information visually for any number of projects
- Memrise (Middle School-Adult) Free- Foreign language software that allows you to create visual reminders (“memes”) to help you learn.
- Evernote–Free or Paid- Allows you to easily take notes
- Solve The Outbreak (High School-Adult) Free- Science game created by the Center for Disease Control with lesson in epidemiology
- Google Chart Tools (Middle School-Adult) Free- Create charts, tree maps, graphs, and dashboards to create visual displays of information
Integrating technology doesn’t have to mean an entire classroom overhaul. Many steps can be taken to gradually introduce technology without completely uprooting systems that are already in place. Either way, the benefits of incorporating technology are plentiful. Find what works best for the students and allow it to supplement any current teachings.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books that integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out next summer.