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Successfully Starting Off The School Year With Classroom Technology
From our Educator Guest Blogger Series
A new school year brings a fresh start for all involved. How quickly we forget the stress that comes with the beginning of school. Lockers, lunch numbers, and buses, oh my! Beginning a new school year with new technology can also add another layer of stress if we are not careful. Here are a few tips and tricks that can assist you in getting off to a smooth start with your classroom technology.
Simplify YOUR Life
Find a tool (or two!) that will make your “productivity” life easier. Remind (www.remind.com) is my #1 go-to tool for classroom communication! Free for teachers, it allows you to send text messages to key stakeholders (students, parents, etc.) with a few keystrokes. It also provides you with a log of all communication and data that informs you right away who has received your message. And although you have the option to receive individual messages from those stakeholders, you can set office hours that warn senders that they might not receive an immediate response, if it’s not during the specified time frame.
Determine which cloud storage platform will work best for you. Be it Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Dropbox, using some type of cloud storage to save important files can be a lifesaver, if you need access to a document—but don’t have access to your device. Plus, using some type of cloud storage will be a necessity when determining how to SEND and RECEIVE digital content to/from students.
Simplify Account Management
How many of us have struggled with remembering which password is attached to what account? (Many hands raised!) So, if we as adults are struggling, it is understandable that our students may have some difficulty as well. If accounts are not pre-created for you by your district, create a fairly complicated, yet easily deciphered username and password that will cause you the least amount of stress. For example, we decided that all student usernames would be their first initial, middle initial, last name (up to 7 characters) and their two-digit birth year. Their passwords are their three initials (first letter capitalized) and their six-digit birthdate. That way, if a student forgot their username or password, it was easy for me to ask them their name and birthdate to assist them in being able to log on. In addition, we created labels and/or index cards that could be placed inside agendas or homework folders.
Spend Time Engaging In Digital Citizenship Conversations
As a former middle school teacher, I can guarantee you that students will make mistakes while using technology. To minimize those mistakes, spend time at the beginning of the year (and then intermittently throughout) having conversations about how to interact appropriately in a digital world. Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship) is a great resource and pre-made lessons are available on their website, as well as iBooks, and Nearpod. Google’s “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum (https://beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com/en) is another option and works seamlessly with PearDeck. When students fail to follow the expectations, refer to previous conversations and be consistent with your consequences.
One Step At A Time
Kahoot! Quizizz! Socrative! Quizlet Live! There are so many tools that do the exact same thing. How will you manage them all? Don’t. Start with one or two tools that can be used to enhance your classroom and stick with them. Once you get comfortable with those, then advance to another tool or resource. Starting with those gaming formative assessment tools is a great way to start because the students enjoy playing the game, but you receive instant data that you can use to adjust your instruction almost immediately.
Focus on the Learning - Not the Tech
Frequently I have conversations with teachers from all over who say, “I’ve heard about this new amazing tool called (insert tool here)! How can I use it in my classroom?” I counter that question with the most important one: “What is the learning goal? What do you want students to be able to demonstrate mastery on?” Once this question is answered, then we can find the appropriate tool that will provide the teacher with the results they desire.
In looking at evaluation models, we are now seeing that technology integration is becoming an essential part of how successful classrooms are determined. Technology is deeply embedded in the South Carolina 4.0 Rubric Instructional Strand and AdvancED’s Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool™ (eleot™). Review the expectations for those evaluation models and start your focus there.
It’s All About Balance
It’s important for us to remember that students should be exposed to digital and traditional ways of learning. Too much of ANYTHING isn’t a good thing! Provide opportunities for students to read and write in a traditional format as well as digitally. Using the accessibility tools that are available on all devices can help improve student learning and confidence. For example, having students use digital media to provide video reflections (Flipgrid, Clips (iOS only), or the camera embedded on their device) is an excellent segue into developing more detailed written reflections.
Although our students are frequently called “digital natives,” using technology effectively in a way that promotes critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration is still a learned skill. It is imperative that we assist them in gaining those necessary 21st-century skills that will make them productive citizens in the future. But remember: it’s about the quality - not the quantity. The end goal will always be the learning. Always.
Carla Jefferson is an Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Darlington County School District. Her goal is to level the playing field for all children through the use of technology, and her passion for technology and teaching has led her on the journey to assist her district in making the digital transformation, as they are fully 1:1 with iPads (4K-8) and MacBook Airs (9-12).
A 21-year veteran educator, Carla has been a classroom teacher, curriculum facilitator, and school level administrator.
Carla is the 2016 Lead PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator for South Carolina. In addition, she is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Certified Apple Learning Specialist, Remind Connected Educator and a member of the Remind Advisory Board, Google Certified Educator/Trainer/Innovator, and bonafide techie geek who loves to integrate technology into the curriculum, Carla flipped her classroom for 2 years in a 1:1 iPad classroom.
She currently serves as a member of the South Carolina ASCD Board, is the chairperson for the SCASA Instructional Technology Roundtable, and is a chairman of the ISTE Digital Equity PLN.
To get a glimpse of the DCSD Digital Transformation Initiative, search for #dcsdtransforms on social media and check out the #DCSDTransforms Podcast on Podbean and iTunes