Jumping off the Cliff of Comfortability – Classroom Tech Integration

Technology has not always been my strong point. In fact, for six years I was so terrified of it that when given a SMART board for my classroom I politely turned it away. Technology cannot be forced upon teachers. They have to have their A-HA moment. Mine was spring of 2013. I begrudgingly checked my Twitter account one night (did not like Twitter) and ran across a teacher named Erin Klein. She was doing something called Augmented Reality with her 2nd graders, and I was amazed.

I started looking at all of the other engaging activities that teachers were doing with students via technology, and I knew that I needed to get my tail in gear. My students deserved the same type of education. The type of education that fosters life long learners. The type of education that provokes children to question and really use those deep critical thinking skills. So late that night I taught myself how to make images come to life in my classroom using Aurasma. Aurasma is an app that creates Augmented Reality. It absolutely changed my classroom. Flipped it upside down.

Technology cannot be forced upon teachers. They have to have their A-HA moment.


I receive a lot of questions from teachers that are hesitant to use technology (like I was) about how they can get started. The following are my tips on how to get started integrating technology seamlessly into your classroom.

1. My Fav. Four

I talk about this a lot when I am trying to help alleviate the fear of utilizing technology into a classroom. One of the biggest fears is “Where do I start”? Teachers need to find just one or two things to start the year off with. Two things that are simple. Two things that can be used for multiple tasks.

My number one go to is Popplet. Popplet can be utilized for any grade level and any content. Students love this app because they can email their work to their teacher and their parents. Another go to for me is Aurasma. Students love making their work come to life. I teach both of these apps the first two weeks of school. After that it is smooth sailing until 2nd semester when I introduce Haiku Deck and ThingLink.

Another fear of teachers is losing instructional time because of having to teach new apps or web 2.0 tools; however, if you use my process you will not be doing that! You can see that by this process I am not teaching technology except for two days a semester. Students are using technology every day as I teach my TEKS and concepts. The iPad is their pencil. It is seamlessly integrated into every day activities.

2. Don’t put the device on a pedestal

I think when teachers are starting out integrating technology into their classroom they are very afraid of losing control. Adults have preconceived ideas of what children are doing on the Internet and in all actuality that’s just not fair. As long as the adult in the room is actively monitoring (like we should be doing with any assignment) then the students will be just fine.

I start off the year by giving my students their iPad rules. I do not give them many at all. I do not want to put the iPad on a pedestal because if we make this technology thing a big deal….then it is going to be a big deal. We should treat the iPad the same as a pencil or a marker. It’s just a tool to help our students create, learn, and grow.

My first rule is to hug the iPad to your heart when you are moving around with it. Remember I teach 4th grade, so teaching device safety is imperative. Our second rule is Apples Down. This means that while the teacher is giving directions all iPads must be down on the table. This ensures that my students are listening and not taking selfies! My last rule is that if I give students a specific app (I usually let them choose how they want to create) then they need to stay in that app. Last year only two students broke the rules. I think that’s pretty good for 70 4th graders.

3. Failure is ok

Fear. Teachers are scared of failing in front of their students. Teachers have the degree. They are the bosses of the room, and they are the smartest. Right? This isn’t the case anymore in a 21st century classroom. Google is the smartest person in the room. What I have focused on this past year is making mistakes in front of my students. They loved it. They love to “catch” me in a mistake. To be honest, I loved when they did. It showed them that I was human, too.

My students constantly corrected me on certain things with the iPad. They also asked to stand in front of the class and teach new tricks and shortcuts. It was amazing. Let’s tear down the walls and build relationships like never before with these kids. Show them that it’s ok to mess up. Then show them how to move forward.

4. Live on the edge

Well, kind of! Try new things. Get inspiration from Pinterest and Twitter. Don’t copy their lessons exactly but tweak them to fit your students’ needs. Have fun and never stop learning. Get out of your comfort zone. Invite the world in and let them see what you are doing. And never forget the most important thing – we are preparing students for their future, not ours. A future that is rich in technology and collaboration. A future where anything dreamed up can happen.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Steven | Alan.

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