How do I apply technology in the classroom? This is one of the main questions I receive in my position with a large public school system. Beginning and veteran teachers alike posit this question. Immediately upon hearing the question, I am excited at the possibilities as several thoughts pop into mind! It’s very easy to apply technology to your classroom. I envision it on three levels of technological application.
The first and most basic level is simply with the teacher as the sole user of technology. At this level, the technology does not travel into the students’ domain for use, let alone for creating a product. I see this level often. Teachers may be slow to enter into this level, but once they are there, can remain indefinitely. It is minimal risk.
At this level, teachers merely utilize technology in order to help them with teaching and organizing. They may use technology to monitor student behavior with programs such as Classroom Dojo or to enter of grades and behavior into a comprehensive system- or state-wide platform. Or teachers may use Google for emailing and creating documents and power points. With some training, they may begin to use Google Docs and Sheets in order to collaborate in designing lesson plans and in hosting team and departmental meetings. However, this particular use of technology never truly “touches” the student.
The second use of technology is where the teacher asks the students to use technology, although the students will not design or create with it. Oftentimes, the students will remain trapped in watching the teacher utilize and manipulate the technology without any real use of the technology on the part of the students nor is there the creation of a product themselves. This is a moderate risk level, in that there is no real opportunity for the teacher to lose control of the students’ behavior or what they produce. Many teachers, once they take the risk of bringing the technology to their students, get stuck at this place.
This second level is often observed in classrooms with technological implements designed specifically with students in mind. An excellent example is the Smart Board. Teachers love to use Smart Boards; although, more often than not, the teacher is the “Smart Board Master,” while the students are the captive, stationary audience. On occasion, the teacher will call a student to the board in order to touch an answer; but that is the extent of it. In essence, the Smart Board is nothing more than a glorified blackboard. This level is also seen with the use of many academic programs, such as Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math, Study Island, Mathway.com, etc. These are all helpful diagnostic, assessment and training programs; however, they do not encourage student creativity and product creation.
The third application of technology is when teachers have the students use various technological implements in order to create a product that could never have been created without that technology. This is, by far, the most risky undertaking for the teacher has to release control over student behavior (possibly), as well as the student's creative process and product. This is the most rigorous use of technology because the students will have to think outside of the box in order to answer a higher level question that the teacher posits and then use some aspect of technology to convey their answer.
For example, an English teacher (if she/he were teaching upon Madeleine L’Engle’s, A Wrinkle in Time) could ask the students to, one, demonstrate/illustrate/create an example of the first, second, third and fourth dimensions, and a tesseract using a Paper Slide, and, two, utilize a cell phone camera to record the Paper Slide they created. Further, the teacher could ask the students to upload their video into Google Drive to be shared with their classmates. Or the teacher, in teaching about polynomials, could ask the students to create a series of increasingly more difficult mathematical questions that gradually move students from a simple polynomial to a complex one. They could use QR Codes to lead those students answering the questions to the next question if the previous one were answered correctly.
There are so many wonderful and ingenious uses for technology in the classroom. With proper training and time to create, teachers can move themselves from being simply users of technology to a place where their students are creating and designing products via the use of technology.