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Frustrations #3 - My students love technology, but it’s hard to integrate into my teaching.

What can you do when your students want to use technology in the classroom, but you struggle to find ways to make it fit?

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I often teach teachers.  A few years ago, when presenting a workshop about integrating free technology into teaching, an attendee said something I will never forget.  After showing the video creation website Animoto, and the “easy” steps for using the site to create advertisements, public service announcements, and videos, a teacher said, “There goes another time waster.”  And every single person in the room laughed.  

Why was the comment so funny?  There are so many reasons.

  • Teachers do not have a lot of free time.
  • Mastering technology takes time.
  • Technology can be frustrating.
  • Technology is ineffective as a teaching tool when it is used just for the sake of using technology.
  • Quite frankly:  Technology is a black hole, where teachers can get lost. 

This comment resonated with me, and has continued to shape my personal beliefs about the use of technology in teaching.  As teachers, we need to prepare students to harness these tools, but in a way that does not waste time.  So, how can we effectively integrate technology into our teaching without wasting time?  Here are five ideas:

Let students choose the tools for presentations. 

Instead of requiring students to use something like PowerPoint for a presentation, ask them to use a presentation tool, and require that you can access it on your computer without software.  Students may share a link or PDF.  Common options for presentations include Voicethread, Powtoon, Photo Peach, or Prezi  I also believe that it is a good idea to let students use non-technology options at times, which can relieve stress for those who have limited access to resources at home.

 

Encourage students to create products that match their learning styles.  
When asking students to demonstrate their learning, let them choose products that match their preferences.   For example, students who are into performance may record their own video, or others may use something like Magisto to make a polished project, or a poster through a platform like Glogster. In their portfolios, have students keep track of the websites or software they employ and require them to vary their choices over time.  Keep the rubric focused on the content and the power of the presentation.

 

Embrace the messiness that technology brings. 

Accept that students will often know more and that things will not work as expected.  Keep an open mind and a non-technology option, a “Plan B,” in case of complete technological meltdown. 

 

Ask students for help.   

There are a few ways to do this.  First, consider appointing a couple of “technology experts” in the class, who will be in charge of answering questions.  Give these student bonus points.  This is a great way to harness student expertise, build student confidence and relationships, and an easy way to solve technology problems that may arise.  It is also worthwhile to test new technology with a couple of student guinea pigs. Again, offer extra credit, and ask a few students to come into class a few days beforehand to pilot any new pieces you are considering adding to class practice.    I also recommend asking students their advice through a class discussion.  Ask, “How can we use technology in an effective way for our upcoming project?”  I have always found student answers to be enlightening.

 

Use your resources and don’t reinvent the wheel. 

As teachers, we often go our own ways, but there is not always a need to.  Use the resources offered to you by your district, department, and/or textbook. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and using a common resource will make it easier to find answers to questions.

I hope that these five ideas have sparked some of your own.  How have you effectively integrated technology into your teaching?


© Cambridge University Press 2014