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3 Tips for Tech in the Classroom

by Daniel Schafer on Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:58 AM
Last week the Fairfax Times printed an article on Ken Halla, a history teacher at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia.

Halla is best known for running the teaching advice blog World History Teachers Blog, wherein he dispenses advice on teaching that is largely based on what he practices in the classroom on a daily basis. Many of the entries on this site surround use of technology in the classroom and how to effectively employ a “Flipped Classroom” model. For the uninitiated, here’s a helpful infographic from Forbes on the Flipped Classroom.

So why all the fuss about technology in the classroom? 

That’s what I’d like to tackle today with 3 Tips for Tech in the Classroom.

1. Professional Development: Collaborate with other teachers.

One of the downsides to the ubiquity of the internet is that there are so many opportunities to collaborate and communicate with other teachers that it’s hard to keep track of all the options. This blog, for example, is designed to provide in-depth conversation about FTF products, services, and issues that we feel are important. But much more teacher-to-teacher interaction happens through our Facebook and Twitter pages because the content is more rapid-fire.

Web-based communities are an excellent way to make connections with people who have similar interests and concerns. Where else, for example, can you talk to 2,500 other teachers and professionals who care about global sustainability education but on Facing the Future’s Facebook page or through our webinars?

Similarly, back when I taught college writing, I spent a great deal of time reading the Writing Program Administrators (WPA) list serv. There was no other place I could hear from publishers, fellow graduate students, and well-known professors in the field. The conversations were, and still are, rich and near-continuous. 

So I encourage you to share your ideas with a community. Collaborate on teaching ideas, talk out your concerns, and voice anything else you think is pertinent using social media outlets, blogs comments, and list servs. I can’t think of a more efficient and useful way to collaborate!

2. Don’t just critique. Generate!
People learn by doing. We all know this, but for some reason there’s been a trend that pushes toward the discussion and critique of texts or ideas in order to learn about them.

Critique is certainly a valuable skill. After all how else can we be reasonably sure that Gmail Blue is an April Fools Day gag without keen, practiced skills of critique? Still, there is no way to otherwise encounter the many small confusions and challenges associated with creating something without…well, creating.

So whether you teach rhetoric, biology, history, or writing, ask your students to create something, reflect on the process, and then critique the final text. Imagine the insight that can be gained from a student designing and implementing their own experiment, putting together their own museum exhibit, or creating their own TV spot advertising a hot new product. 

And ask them to do so while weaving in multiple modes. Don’t just have your students write out a report. Instead, try asking students to present to the class using audio and/or visual components. Maybe they can storyboard and produce a video to tell a story, write a song about the Civil War, or make a comic book that describes the scientific method. 


 Technology isn’t just computers, and “multimedia” doesn’t just mean “YouTube.” There are so many ways to be creative with technology and multimedia!

If you'd like more ideas on incorporating technology and multimedia into your assignments, check
out Facing the Future's teacher's guides and lesson plan books.

3. Teach library and Google research
Most teachers have taken a class to the library. But it’s easy to assume students will pick up the kind of research skills they need quickly and easily. Particularly with web and online journal research, just because students are savvy with their iPhone doesn't mean they are savvy with research. Consider taking a little extra time to talk about research, invite a librarian to talk to your class, and follow-up with your  students to see how their progressing with their research practices. Reiterating the importance of research skills, and how to conduct research correctly will serve them for a long time to come. 

To help the process along, here’s a terrific infographic on research skills that outlines the do’s and don’ts of the process.

How do you incorporate technology in to the classroom? How do you collaborate with other teachers? 

Until next time,
Daniel

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2 comment(s) so far...

Thomas Polley 4/2/2013

Thanks for this! It seems that so many people use iPads and other devices just because they're there, and because they're required to. It's important to remember that people need to use this technology for a purpose!

 
Daniel Schafer 4/2/2013

Thanks, Thomas! I quite agree, though this is a difficulty many teachers face. Luckily there are a great deal of resources available to help educators incorporate these tools in a way that's beneficial and not done haphazardly. FTF, for example, has MoodleRooms lessons that provide implementation ideas for teachers, as do our teacher's guides: http://bit.ly/11jf2Sz

 
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