Education technology has now worked its way into almost every corner of our schools and businesses, appearing in classrooms across the country and bringing fantastic initiatives and improvements with it. The incoming ‘ed-tech’ wave has prompted hundreds of articles about how to train teachers who might not be up-to-date with the latest technology, and how to convince old-school educators to embrace technological advancements. But very little has been said about encouraging students to use technology.
We assume in this digital ‘Facebook age’ that every school-age child is already fluent with a keyboard, touch screen and type pad, but this assumption of computer literacy could be a mistake. What about kids who don’t have access to the latest technology at home? What about students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not even be aware of how an iPad or iPhone functions? What about those whose parents simply haven’t been able to afford to give them the sort of digital fluency their classmates take for granted?
Encouraging these students to become more comfortable using technology is vital, in order to prevent them being left behind by the educational technology bandwagon. Moving education on in new and exciting ways is fantastic progress, but it is vital to make sure that nobody is being left behind. It would be tragic if the advancement of education technology meant a growing learning gap between the most privileged pupils and the most disadvantaged. So take advantage of these 5 tips to encourage students who might not be so computer-literate to learn how to use technology in the classroom…
1. Identify them
Unlike tech-shy teachers, who are likely to be quite open about their lack of technological know-how and happy to learn new skills, kids who don’t know much about computers and technology might be much more shy and embarrassed about it. In the current age of technology, electronic devices are status symbols, particularly for young students, and admitting that you don’t know how to use an iPad, or haven’t ever used a common program like Microsoft Word, could be a source of deep embarrassment to some pupils.
So take advantage of situations where students are using individual devices to get some one-to-one feedback about how they’re doing and what skills they’re using. Observe your class in the computer lab to work out who the whizz-kids are and who is taking a little longer to get to grips with the programs. Then take the opportunity to talk informally to those students who seem to be falling behind in a low-pressure situation, without other kids around. Often admitting your own failing or confusion over a particular program or resource can be a great way to encourage kids to open up about their struggles. Once you identify the kids who need extra help, you’re in a much stronger position to get them the resources they need to catch up.
2. Partner up
Allowing kids to teach each other is a great way to get them to learn, whilst also practising vital presentation and communication skills. Get kids to partner up when using certain technological resources, and make sure that those students who aren’t so savvy are partnered with somebody who knows the ropes and can help them learn. If the whole class is learning in pairs, with one member of each team tasked to ‘teach’ the other how to use a particular device or program, it is less obvious that any individual needs the extra help – it normalises the situation and allows learning to take place in a low-pressure way.
3. Encourage device sharing
Whether you are using school resources or allowing students to use their own electronic devices in a ‘bring your own’ situation, encouraging pupils to share their technology is a great way to make sure that everybody has access to the same resources. Taking it in turns to use iPads or computers allows students the chance to observe others and learn from them, as well as practicing sharing and teamwork at the same time.
4. Use simple resources
Any tech-shy student will be easily put off, so make sure you don’t bombard them with too many complex, high-tech programs too soon. Try using simple online e-learning tools like the free animation tool Canvastic or eBook tool Simplebooklet to ease tech-shy students gently into the world of education technology.
5. Praise, praise, praise!
As with any new skill, students who are learning how to use technology in the classroom for the first time will need plenty of praise and encouragement to celebrate their achievements and stay positive. One of the greatest joys of technology is that it takes the sting out of old-fashioned ‘mistakes’. A misspelled word can be instantly deleted; a mistake or a line drawn out of place can vanish at the touch of the ‘undo’ button. Take advantage of these aspects of education technology to make sure students feel free to experiment and are unafraid of failing. Promoting ed-tech as a risk-free environment is a great way to encourage tech shy students to feel brave about learning and building their confidence with new devices and programs.
Have you encountered tech-shy students? What are your best tips for encouraging them to use technology in class? Let us know using the comments box below!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Jose Kevo
2nd image courtesy of Flickr, Extra Ketchup
3rd image courtesy of Flickr, IICD