Finding a device for your students can range from easy to nearly impossible depending on your situation. Odds are though, you can schedule a time to at least get a handful of devices into your classroom. The real challenge becomes what do you do once you have the devices in front of your students?
The above model shows the “natural progression” a teacher makes as he/she begins to use more technology. The basic idea here is that the higher you go up, the more impact technology has on the delivery of the lesson and/or activity.
Keep It Simple
If you are new to using technology and/or flipping the classroom, you are going to want to keep things simple. Think of an activity that you can simply use a tech tool instead of pen and paper. Many teachers use Google Presentations instead of flashcards or play a review game of some kind using a template they found online. I used the jeopardy game from superteachertools.net early in my career. Seriously, I am not saying you need to learn how to code and create a mobile app in your first lesson. Simply swap out a pen and paper activity with something you can do online. This would fall under the “substitution” area of the SAMR model above.
When I began to use technology, I knew I could not just flip my class overnight. I set out to learn as much as possible on how I could differentiate my instruction, so I decided to focus on how I assessed my students. I remember substituting a 3 question exit slip students would normally fill out on paper with an online quiz. I made a list of items that I wanted to evaluate during this. I was pretty excited because I set it up so that the computer would do the grading instantly. I remember that it was on a Friday and I was thrilled that I would not spend any time grading these over the weekend (I currently do ZERO school work on the weekends or at home unless I WANT to) and was almost giddy with excitement over this. I also had the following questions going through my mind:
- What tech issues occurred and could I prevent them in the future?
- What did the quiz look like on the students’ end?
- Was the data easy to analyze?
- Did I choose the best device?
- What steps should I take next?
- And of course analyzing the data from the actual exit slip 😉
My Results – Dumpster Fire
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I chose to have the students take the assessment on Chromebooks which would have been great if the students could have remembered how to log into them. I had to look up individual passwords for over a dozen students which took way more time than I had planned. This led to many of my students not finishing the quiz or rushing through it, so there went my data. Many of the Chromebooks also kept trying to connect to the wifi of a church next door to the school which caused issues. I also got to hear about a misspelled word I had in an answer choice all day because I could not figure out how to fix it (#facepalm).
I remember going up to my principal and telling her how disastrous it was. I was so fortunate to have a supportive administration early in my career. I told her that it was definitely a learning experience and I would not give up. There is a saying that in order to have 2 successes, you need to fail 8 times. I have definitely had my “failures”, but as long as you learn something from the experience then it can not really be called a failure can it?
Fast forward to a few weeks later and I had a solution to each of those problems. I had a better handle of how much time it took my students to complete an exit slip. The students began to memorize their passwords. I called our great IT people who then blocked the church wifi so our Chromebooks would only acknowledge the school’s, and I also learned how to edit questions during a quiz (still use this feature quite a bit haha).
My Quick Advice
- Have students save work on some kind of cloud-based platform. Google Drive is great for this!
- Screencasting your lecture or notes is a great start. This allows students to take in the information at their own pace. Below is a link to the program screencast-o-matic that I use and recommend all the time. Super simple to use!
- It is also helpful if you ask the students to bring headphones. I recommend purchasing some extras if you. I recommend the pack below. They are easy to clean and pretty durable. Don’t get me wrong. Students will always find a way to break things (#thisiswhywecanthavenicethings), but I have found success with these. I only give these out as loaners and students have to give me something of theirs (usually a shoe) in order to get a pair.
- I also recommend Chromebooks of some kind over tablets for most activities. The simple reason here is I believe getting used to using a device with a keyboard will better serve them down the road. I do not know of a single business owner that runs everything he/she does through a tablet, so I believe this will help set them up for success later in life. That being said, I do use tablets from time to time as they can add quite a bit of value to your instruction.
Figure out what devices are available to you and what is the simplest way of implementing them into your class. Remember, setting up a small station of a handful devices that students can rotate to is a great start!