I love using technology in the classroom. Here are some tips for its effective integration, especially for teachers who are just beginning to utilize these important tools.
1. Start small. Begin with one assignment with one website. Based on student feedback and results, your knowledge and use of technology will slowly increase over time.
2. Demonstrate the technology the first time. For example, if giving a “flipped” assignment, review the rubric and how to access the materials online, or if using Voki (www.voki.com), do the first assignment together using a class set of computers. That being said, I do not always “hand hold” the use of technology. Students always amaze me with their ability to figure things out. I also privately approach learners I suspect may need assistance.
3. Utilize a technology “home base.” Creating a class website where students can access project links and materials makes it easier for students to complete assignments. It is also a good idea to post project rubrics and templates so that tech-savvy students can type them instead. Over time, this “home base” will evolve and grow.
4. Embrace that most students know more about technology. When I give technology workshops, many teachers are overwhelmed with mastering the intricacies of websites and are afraid they will be unable to answer student questions. Embrace that students know more, and encourage them to teach each other and you, the teacher. This can greatly improve class culture, and the act of “letting go” demonstrates to students that you, too, are a learner.
5. Let students do the work. If you want to create a series of videos for classroom use, assign them to students in small groups. Later, save those videos to use with other classes. Be sure to preview the videos before showing them to the entire class!
6. Ask students their opinions. Some of the best assignment ideas come from students. I often explain to students my idea for projects, then ask them how to make them more engaging and relevant. Listening to their input can lead to greater choices within the assignment, and ultimately, more completion and better products.
7. Give students choices for format. When assigning presentations, videos, or other projects, let students choose the technology. Instead of, for example, requiring the use of Prezi (www.prezi.com), Voicethread (www.voicethread.com), or Animoto (www.animoto.com), let students select the best way to meet the assignment criteria. As part of the project rubric, require that students email you the link. (I would also, at times, give learners non-technology options too.) Choice is a powerful motivator and a tool for creating independent learners.
Important tip for world language teachers:
Teach students how to put accent marks into a variety of documents and web-based tools using laptops, desktop computers, tablets, and cellphones.