Tech - Making the most of what you have!
Each new year brings change for goals you might have for yourself as a teacher, along with goals you might have for your students. At the very beginning of my teaching career, I felt that technology must be used with every single aspect of my lessons. With all of the current pushing for technology in the classroom, building up student use of these devices, it becomes a very daunting task for even the most experienced teachers.
One might ask “is technology essential for a successful lesson?” After much reflection, I started this school year reaching out to many people in my Professional Learning Network (PLN). My PLN contributed suggestions, hints and tips for integrating the use of technology in the classroom does not have to be one of sole dependence to make or break a lesson. It can simply be an extension to the lesson or a way to check for understanding. Armed with that knowledge, I was ready to apply technology within the bounds and resources I possessed.
What do you do if you have limited tech in your classroom? Sometimes, the best thing to do is to bring some in from home. This year, I was teaching my 2nd grade students about the Japanese art of Gyotaku, which was an original form of fish printing. We created underwater seascapes for our fish to swim. The next time we created our actual fish print, once dry, I created small groups of 4-5 students at each of my six tables in the classroom. I had them work collaboratively within their group to create a simple story including all of the their fish and seascapes. Then using my own personal iPad mini, I walked around to each group and they created their own animation short using a free app called iMotion. I later heard from parents, about how the students went home to download the app for themselves to create their own stop animation shorts. They left the art studio very proud of their work and excited they implemented some technology.
Now as a classroom, we are introducing the students to a digital portfolio site called “Creatubbles”. After setting up the students with their own accounts, I slowly introduced early finishers to this new app. I found that by breaking it up into smaller groups of students this was not an overwhelming task. By the time those early finishers completed uploading, they were able to teach the others how to use this app. Now I have many students going home to create art and can upload their new pieces all on their own.
I guess the next question would be “What do you do if you do not have any tech in your classroom?” First, find out if your district has a department for instructional technology. These usually are people in your district that you can contact anytime for questions about how to use the technology or they can help you locate devices to use for a short period of time. Last year, I was getting ready to introduce a lesson with my 5th graders about animation. Over my winter break, I began playing around with an app called “DoInk”, DoInk utilizes a green screen, which can use either live video or still images. Not having any technology in my room, I contacted my instructional tech department with my ideas of what I wanted to achieve with this lesson. They showed up a week later with six full sized iPads, with the app loaded, plus a full sized green screen cloth to hang up in my classroom. Don’t feel the need to take on the entire world when it comes to the use of technology in your classroom. Break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. But don’t feel that because you don’t have technology in your classroom, that you are out of luck. Ask around to find other options or look to your PLN for some suggestions to on how to enhance your lesson by adding a bit of tech to it!