This is the fourth article in the “Creating the Classroom of Your Dreams” series. This series will uncover a multitude of concepts for teachers to implement that will create a well-functioning, parent-inclusive classroom. Check out article one HERE, article two HERE and article three HERE.
Technology is everywhere around us and it’s only getting more prevalent – just think of how much you use technology today and when you started using laptops, iPads, and cellphones.
Not only do we immerse our children in technology but they love it. Now, even infants have apps and know how to use tablets. It’s fun, engaging, and will only become more accessible as these children grow up and begin their journey to college and careers where they will encounter, use, and develop new and ever-evolving technologies.
Technology is so important in the classroom because it can mirror and align with the way students communicate and navigate outside the classroom. Children watch videos for facts & entertainment, text & record for friends and family, swipe left, right, up and down when reading, and follow all kinds of mobile links when reading about their favorite band or sports teams – so why aren’t they doing this in their classrooms, too? Students want to show what they know, but they also need to be engaged and challenged. Technology has the ability to engage students so effectively planning activities in the classroom will create a rigorous, relevant, and challenging environment. Students will want to succeed in an environment that is immersed in technology, and they need to since it is an important part of their future.
“We are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, to solve problems that we haven’t even considered yet.”
– Karl Fisch & Scott McLeod
The goal in my classroom was to embed technology into the everyday school environment so the MSTEP and MAP tests were second nature.
Basing my classroom around a class website – Weebly – was a great start. You can compile a year’s worth of lessons, activities, links, games, videos, pictures, articles, reports, etc. in one place. These can then be used at school and at home to keep parents, students, and families involved. Google Classroom and Google Apps For Education (GAFE) really accelerated my students’ technological abilities. Students can create projects, documents, videos, slideshows, surveys and spreadsheets to show their deep knowledge of concepts. Accounts are free to set up and Google Classroom creates folders for each student in their Google Drive. Instead of making paper copies, I was sending my students digital copies (of the same stuff) and they were twice as engaged. These activities looked like what students would see on the M-STEP or MAP tests and used mediums they will use in college and beyond – their test scores soared! Most importantly, my students were engaged and interested – they were using technology to accelerate their learning.
Think how confusing it must be for a student who learned how to add with regrouping on paper but doesn’t know how to drag and drop the numbers in the correct column when asked to insert an answer on a Computer Adapted Test (CAT) question. Or the great writer who never had practice typing or using editing tools in Word. They know the skill but couldn’t show it on the medium they’re asked to. Students need practice using technology and solving CAT questions to develop strategies and confidence so they can focus on the content during these tests, not the computer. Sites such as IXL, Read Theory, Ten Marks, and Edcite all offer free accounts for teachers and students. They allow classes to participate in whole group, small group, or individual practice and provide instant data to redirect or differentiate instruction.
If we intend to accelerate our students’ learning, we need to know what they learned. Having access to data instantly allows the teacher, students, and parents to attack weak areas with a laser focus. Technology helps teachers organize and communicate this data with parents and students in a positive environment. Sites like Class Dojo help parents and teachers track student behavior and data, and communicate in real time. It also keeps a Parent Communication Record for reference all year. Google Classroom lets students collaborate and many other sites provide data on how to group your students for success.
Technology can accelerate learning in so many ways. It allows all stakeholders to collaborate and communicate. Technology can engage our students and help target the skills our students have mastered and where learning gaps exist. Student proficiency is tested using technology and our students’ social lives are immersed in technology. Their future profession may not even exist yet and an ever changing technological world awaits them. Technology can accelerate the world around us and it can accelerate learning in the classroom, too. Is your school Tech Ready?
Paul Ezel has been a teacher for 10 years at Dove Academy of Detroit. He’s taught 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. He is currently the Media Center Teacher and Lead Mentor Teacher at Dove. His favorite part of teaching in today’s environment is finding new and useful technology and sharing it with students and teachers. Feel free to contact him with questions or concerns about getting your school or classroom Tech Ready.