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Tips for Using Technology in the Classroom as a New Teacher

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In this day and age, students are fully immersed in technology. They have smartphones, can use a tablet with the ease of a professional, and are no strangers to using the internet. As a new teacher, how can you bring this technology into your classroom to help engage students?

Use of Technology by Students

Students are using technology to supplement their learning more and more every year. A 2015 Pearson survey conducted by Harris Poll asked students in fourth to twelfth grade about their technology use. Here are some of their key findings:

  • The use of tablets among students at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels increased from 2014 to 2015.
  • The use of smartphones also increased across all levels. According to the Pearson survey: 'In 2015, 53% of elementary students, 66% of middle school students and 82% of high school students use smartphones regularly.
  • 83% of surveyed students said they use a laptop to complete their school work.

The survey also found that 72% of elementary students, 66% of middle school students and 54% of high school students want the use of mobile devices in the classroom to increase.

Data provided by Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey 2015
Technology use in the classroom

Trying to fulfill these students' wishes can benefit everyone in the classroom. According to a survey conducted by VeraQuest Research for PBS Learning Media, reinforcing materials, motivating students, and accommodating multiple learning styles are some of the benefits of using technology in your lessons. Keep reading to learn our tips for successfully incorporating technology in the classroom.

Familiarize Yourself with the Technology First

The Pearson survey also found that, at all levels of education, 'most students feel that they know more about tablets and other computers than their teachers.' You want to prove them wrong by knowing the tools you're using for class inside and out.

The previously mentioned VeraQuest survey found that, of the teachers surveyed, about half were 'comfortable experimenting with new technology.' Even if you're not one of the teachers who is okay using technology, you should still push yourself to test things out.

To get yourself more comfortable and familiar with the technology you might be using in class, play around with them first at home and read up on them. This will help you determine what will work best for your class. You'll feel less stressed and nervous if you're already comfortable with the gadget before class time rolls around. It will also help you identify areas that might cause trouble for students and prepare to help them troubleshoot.

Communicate with Parents

Before beginning to incorporate technology into your classroom, talk to your students' parents about what you'll be doing. They'll want to know that students will be using gadgets in class and will appreciate insight into how they'll be used. Here are some things to communicate to the parents:

  • How the technology will be used
  • Types of technology that will be used
  • Rules students will be expected to follow
  • Safety precautions you'll be taking
  • How often these tools will also be needed at home, if at all

It could also be helpful to ask parents about their child's technology habits and the rules they typically have to follow at home. Is the child bad at following the rules? Do they have limits on how long they're allowed to be online? This can give you valuable insight on potential guidelines to include and which students may need more supervision. It can also foster a sense of collaboration with parents so that you're not doing anything in class that could contradict with what they're doing at home.

Child using an iPad

Know How to Get Tech Support

No matter how well you know the phone, tablet or computer you want to use, there's going to come a time when you won't be able to solve the problem yourself. But you want to avoid one of these instances coming up in the middle of class and not having any idea who to go to for help. It would be frustrating for you and could waste a lot of valuable classroom time.

First, if your school has a tech support team, touch base with them to let them know about the types of technology you'll be using and when. This way they can brush up their knowledge if need be and can try to be available should anything come up during the class. You can also make sure you have the correct contact information for them handy, to avoid spending extra time trying to find their phone number.

It may also be helpful to put together your own list of resources that can help you with tech support. That could include websites with a lot of useful troubleshooting information or phone numbers to tech support lines for the companies themselves.

Set Ground Rules

Your students will be incredibly excited to start using technology more in class, but it's important they know that it is for class and not for non-academic things. This will help you maintain control of the class and keep the focus on learning. The rules can also help keep students safe while they're online.

Online education platform Whoo's Reading has compiled a list of rules for students to follow while using technology in the classroom. They include only going to approved websites, not giving out personal information, and not downloading anything.

Monitor Closely During Usage

There are a couple of reasons that monitoring your students while they use technology will be very important. Obviously, one of those reasons is to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. Smartphones and tablets generally have games and internet access, which means they provide many potential distractions for students. You want to make sure they're doing the class assignment and not looking at cat pictures online.

The other reason to monitor is to ensure students are being safe on the internet. Before even giving the students the technology to use, you should talk to them about internet safety protocols. You can share with them the FBI's tips for kids internet safety and may even want to send a copy home for their parents to reference.

Students watching iPads

Make Technology a Treat & Not an Expectation

According to Michigan State University Extension, 'It's important to incorporate a variety of teaching methods into an educational experience.' Just like you wouldn't want to give lectures all day every day, you won't want to constantly use tech gadgets every day. First of all, variety helps keep students engaged. By varying your delivery methods and tools used, you'll help keep them interested in what's going on in class.

Additionally, this can help make sure students don't start to think they're entitled to use technology in class whenever they want to. If students start to view technology as something they can use at all times in class, they may be more likely to start abusing it. Showing them that there are only some times and places when, for example, having a tablet out is okay will help you keep things in control.

Evaluate Effectiveness on an Ongoing Basis

Just like any new thing you try in your classroom, you'll want to evaluate how the use of technology is going. Hopefully you'll find out that everything is going as planned and that it's proving to be a very effective teaching tool. However, if you find it's not doing what you intended, don't lose hope!

Try to pinpoint what exactly the problem is. Is the technology too advanced for your students? Is it proving to be too much of a distraction to students? Once you know what the problem is you can look into how to correct things. You may need to only make minor adjustments or you may need to try something totally different.

No matter what you have to do, make sure you keep checking the effectiveness. You want this strategy to help your students, so as soon as something isn't working you should see how you can change things up. Macquaire University lists several ways teachers can evaluate their lessons, including getting feedback from students, having a fellow teacher observe, and using student assessments to test their retention of materials.

Stay Up-To-Date on Technological Advancements

As you're well aware, technology is always changing. Sometimes if feels like you just blinked your eyes and everything in the tech world is totally different. If you're going to be using technology regularly in your classroom, you'll want to try to stay as up-to-date with the field as possible. According to an AskaTechTeacher.com article, 'in order to help students make the most of technology, teachers need to stay on top of it themselves.'

The AskaTechTeacher.com article also gives tips for how teachers can stay up-to-date with technology. They recommend following podcasts and new sources that cover technology. Another idea is to make use of new technologies when you're at home to get even more comfortable with their use.

By Meghan Cooney
December 2018
teachers technology in the classroom

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