I managed to attend a second #DojoChatEU in a row last week, moderated by Ciara Brennan on the subject of Technology in the Classroom. Ciara asked several questions on the topic and I thought it might be a good idea to summarise my own feelings as well as other in the chat. You can read all the tweets on Jenna Kleine’s Chirpify Account.
Question 1: Why do you think some teachers still find technology a hindrance more than a help?
This was a really good question to start things off. As much as we’d like to think technology is as natural as pen and paper, some teachers still regard it with suspicion and, sometimes, contempt. Is technology another thing we have to do?, one would have heard publicly a few years ago. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier (and it does) but it does need maintaining and when things go wrong (and they do) it can make teachers angry. I also suspect some teachers don’t like their pupils knowing more than they do. What can we do about it? I don’t know the answer to this but I suspect, in time, technology will become a natural part of the teaching day. I just hope it gets there a lot quicker than it is!
Question 2: Limited funds/resources are a problem. What are your top tips for getting the most from limited tech resources?
Continuing to grasp the nettles, Ciara asks for solutions to the issue of money. In fact the first two questions really tackle the two big obstacles – the 2 M’s – Money and Mindset. Money is important, naturally, but we can do a lot with the little we have. A teacher’s own Smartphone opens up thousands of possibilities with photos, videos and audio. Even one laptop in a room can offer an extensive array of activities. However, it is probably unforgivable in the 21st century to have school without reasonable Internet access or even a reasonable network structure. Once one has a working piece of technology and Internet access, almost everything is possible.
Question 3: Should there be a curriculum for IT/Tech or should it be ad-hoc?
For me, the answer I would give is neither. I certainly think a technology curriculum is a very bad idea. I have seen the effects of this in the UK whereby disinterested teachers suck the potential creative powers that technology can bring and end up following a dull step-through process, with everyone coming up with the same or similar results. However, I don’t think technology should be ad-hoc either. What we need to do is plan for technology to complement what we do in the curriculum. If we go off-script to an ad-hoc place sometimes, that’s ok too but we do need some sort of plan.
Question 4: What are your top (free!) tech resources you use in your classroom?
This question always frightens me because there is so much out there and for different reasons. I have to mention ClassDojo (not because of my association but because it’s brilliant) and I also have to mention Google Apps for Education. Evernote is something I’m liking more everyday and then we have Padlet and many others. I’d recommend looking through the Chirpify page as there’s some great ideas there.
Question 5: What advice would you give someone who is hesitant to incorporate tech in his/her classroom?
This is a great question. It’s also a tough one. I think if you can get an opportunity to model lessons incorporating ICT, that would be great but this isn’t really an option in most schools. However, teachers do talk at break times and we’re very good magpies so if something is working really well, it’s amazing how quickly it spreads. I don’t think we can force the reluctant teachers to use ICT, we just have to do really cool stuff so these teachers can’t help but want to steal the ideas from us!
Question 6: How can we ensure the use of tech is as meaningful as possible for our students?
For me, this is simple: it needs to link in with what the students are learning. Technology doesn’t work in isolation. It’s a tool, a resource, a methodology. We need to use it to its strengths and the magic happens.
Question 7: What are your top ways to use tech for positive classroom management?
Well, there’s only one answer to this question. ClassDojo.