For many of today’s schools, integrating technology into daily classroom activities is a priority, if not a requirement. When used properly, education technology – or ‘edtech’ – can prove beneficial for teachers and students alike.
While easy to conceptualize, successfully integrating technology as a tool to extend student learning on a consistent basis has proven to be a challenge for both teachers and administrators. For example, many teachers are lacking experience with school-issued technology, which when coupled with the absence of adequate training to adapt that tech presents a significant problem.
As technology in the classroom quickly becomes the new norm, the need for proper integration protocol rises. We asked a few of today’s educators to share feedback that could help fellow teachers and administrators seamlessly introduce or upgrade edtech in their classrooms.
#1: Don’t use tech as a crutch. Use it to reinforce critical thinking.
While classroom technology creates learning opportunities for students, it can also open the door for complacency. Nick Puckett, a high school Algebra teacher in Clayton, Indiana, noted his biggest struggle with edtech integration has been making sure his students retain their critical thinking skills. With such immediate access to these new tools, it’s easy for students to rely on the Internet to complete tough assignments, making the learning process less of a challenge.
To achieve successful integration, schools and teachers need to stress that new classroom tech should be used to enhance – not replace – daily lessons. This means working to create lesson plans that promote individual research or group collaboration, while positioning edtech as a supplement to those efforts.
With the Internet literally at their fingertips, it’s also easy for students to misappropriate these new tools to the point of distraction for themselves and others. To prevent this, classrooms operating on a 1:1 system should consider installing software that limits Internet use to educational content.
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#2: Avoid trial by fire. Develop an edtech training regimen.
A lack of sufficient training for students of varying learning levels is a chief concern for Ashley Marinich, a special education ELA and math teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. Without the support of proper training, new technology can prove detrimental for teachers attempting to balance daily lesson plans with student comprehension.
While tablet use may seem like second nature to most young students, it’s important to implement a training plan that can be understood by students with a range of technology experience. Continued training throughout the onboarding process is also important, and schools should make day-to-day technology and training support readily available for teachers so they’re ready to adapt to software upgrades or device failures.
Districts and individual schools must also consider a training component for parents, who will be expected to assist with the use of technology for school assignments at home. In fact, Marinich fields daily questions from parents who struggle to help their children due to unfamiliarity with devices.
#3: Prepare for the worst. Create a damage control plan.
While many districts and schools plan ahead for malfunctions, misplacements, and other mishaps, there’s only so much that educators can prepare for. Katie Novak, who teaches middle school science in Holcomb, Kansas, stresses the importance of promoting accountability for the general care of edtech devices. At Katie’s school, students are responsible for the financial burden of a device that’s been damaged by the user (a cracked screen, for example) while the district handles any component malfunctions. But given that these children are in middle school, the cost of device repair is likely to fall to the parent.
Keep your students’ parents in the know by communicating a clear damage control plan prior to issuing devices to students, especially in a 1:1 setting. This plan should clearly outline rules for home use, while providing students and parents an option to leave devices at a secure location at school. It should also include guidance for teachers about what should happen in the event of a device malfunction. From replacement, to repair, to reimbursement, educators can save themselves a lot of potential headaches by partnering with an insurance provider. Daily protection tools like cases and screen protectors can also prove valuable.
Successfully integrating new education technology is an ongoing, multifaceted process. By working to keep students fully engaged and thinking critically, developing a clear damage control plan along with ongoing training and support, teachers and school districts can streamline that process and minimize mishaps.