Do you use digital resources in your classroom? Have you fully embraced it, or do you still cling to paper and pencil? Technology is becoming more and more accessible every year, but there are pros and cons to integrating tech into the classroom.
I think it’s important to find a healthy balance when using tech in the classroom. Relying on it too much or ignoring it completely can both be problematic. I think that when you have the right digital resources in your toolbox, your teaching life can get a whole lot simpler!
Let’s take a look at some advantages to going digital in the classroom, as well as some resources that can really enhance student learning.
1. Peer collaboration
Bringing technology into the classroom can really help foster collaboration between students. For example, students can use Flipgrid to record themselves speaking about a topic, reading a text, or reviewing a book they’ve read recently, and then classmates can view and respond to each other’s content. Similarly, students can blog safely over at Kidblog and read and respond to each other’s blog posts.
2. Connect with the world
Microsoft’s Skype in the Classroom allows for students to be exposed to so much more than they are used to! They have the opportunity to attend virtual field trips, Skype with experts, and Skype with other students from around the world using Mystery Skype.
3. Get organized and save time on prep
Mornings can become a time-trap when you have to post objectives, the daily agenda, and your learning goals for the day. Using a set of class welcome slides can help you streamline your morning class set-up process. Spend a couple of minutes customizing your greeting, daily message, reminders, etc, and then project the slides for your kiddos.
Bonus: it also cuts down on the chorus of voices asking “what are we doing today, Mrs. Rivers??” ?On a more serious note, though, there’s a huge advantage to students seeing a consistent plan each day. They quickly learn where to look for information, and some will even get started on the day’s activities without your prompting!
4. Time management
My small group visual timers keep students on track during small group rotations, and more importantly, they help students take charge of their time management. Rather than YOU being in charge of all the rotations, the students have a visual cue to keep center rotations running smoothly. Now, instead of shouting out time updates or managing rotations yourself, you can be free to work with individual students, troubleshoot with groups, or take a sip of coffee! ☕️
5. Increase student engagement
Kids love getting their hands on technology in the classroom! Whether you have a small set of Chromebooks, or each child is issued their own iPad, the key to keeping engagement high is to mix up the way you deliver content and assign work.
Spice things up a bit with a digital game or small project! Jeopardy style games are always a big hit with kids. Try this weather and climate version, or one about animal adaptations. These are a super fun way to review unit concepts, and kids love the competition!
My students LOVE this Design Your Own App project, which is a PBL unit that uses paper and/or digital slides. Perfect for districts that promote technology and PBL.
6. Accommodate different student needs
Technology can be an excellent way to differentiate for students with special needs. For example, students who struggle with pencil control may feel more successful typing or speaking their answers.
My digital research reports can be a good way for students to get familiar with using technology while tapping into a variety of learning styles. I have created digital reports for researching communities, animal research, and “app” style projects for animals and famous inventors.
7. Save paper (and your sanity!)
Besides the obvious environmental benefits, going digital with class assignments can really cut down on paper clutter. One of the biggest frustrations is keeping all that paper organized and under control! I know for me personally, I tend to make piles on my desk and just move the piles when I’m sick of seeing them. When you use Google Slides or Google Classroom to assign student work, you don’t have to worry about physical papers to collect and keep organized.
Using Digital Graphic Organizers can really cut down on both your prep time and your cleanup time.
What if it doesn’t work, Toluca?!
I hear you! Many teachers are afraid to integrate much tech into their classrooms because they’re worried it will be more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll be honest, the struggle is real! Technical difficulties, failures, and user errors are all inevitable. Here are a few common issues to watch for, and tips from tech-savvy teachers in my Facebook group:
- WiFi issues – the WiFi will cut out on you at some point, probably during a very inconvenient time. Make sure you always have a backup idea on hand – a simple paper task to work on, discussion prompts for the kids to use with peers – while you try and resolve the issue. A go-with-the-flow attitude is important when tech issues happen.
- Login problems – especially in the beginning, getting all your kiddos logged in properly will take some time. Be sure to allow extra time for this in the beginning. Some tips for smoother logins: keep a file with your students’ usernames and passwords for frequently used sites. Ask students to help their neighbors. Recruiting some tech-savvy kiddos as helpers can take a big load off of you! Melody, a second grade teacher in our Teacher Community Group, shared that she assigned no homework for a week except to learn how to log in!
- Youtube and gaming distractions – depending on your district’s filter, this may or may not be an issue for your classroom. Online distractions will likely happen no matter what, though, so make sure students know your expectations and the consequences for being off task. If you don’t already have it, consider asking your district or building to invest in monitoring software like GoGuardian or Lightspeed so you can see and control their screens.
- Frozen screens – again, this will definitely happen at some point or another. Teach students what to do when the computer or tablet freezes. Should they ask you for help or restart the machine? Account for this when you teach procedures.
How do you feel about technology in the classroom? Has your school been quick or slow to embrace digital resources? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and then join us over in my new Facebook group: Markers and Minions Teacher Community!