My daughter, a first grader, keeps asking me for a phone. “So many kids have them!” and I wonder, “For what?” but I know the answer: for everything. Technology is everywhere. It’s in classrooms, churches, the bus, the dinner table. Everywhere. And rather than resisting it, there are some key things that teachers, in particular, can do to leverage the growing trend for electronic classrooms to work in their favor. Here are a few of those things you might consider:
1. Have a Clear Electronics Policy in Place
No matter how much you care about your students, as a teacher, you know realistically that if given free reign of a tablet or laptop, any kid from the age of 5 to 18 (and beyond!) is going to return the device at the end of the day with the thing loaded with a variety of farm heroes, exploding candies, pictures of doe-eyed kids with flower crowns…and not to date myself even further, but I have no idea what kids are playing these days. Whatever it is, without some clear boundaries in place, it’s not going to be what you’re teaching them.
So first things first, when you come to embrace technology in your classroom, lay out a clear electronics policy. What are the consequences of excessive or inappropriate technology use? What tools are okay to use and which are strict no-nos? If you hear technology knocking at your classroom door, it might be time to get together with your school or district IT professional and determine what constitutes “acceptable use” in your school.
2. Create Natural Consequences for Misuse
With any luck, your students are growing up in environments where they understand that every action has a natural consequence. According to Edutopia, “a disruption should always be a bigger headache to the student than to you as a teacher.” When our 6-year-old is acting out like 6-year-olds often do, my husband will sometimes say, “You better stop that or you won’t go to the park tomorrow!” This is frustrating because the consequence of her action is more of a headache to me than it is to her. No park tomorrow means “hang out with mom and push every button you know she has.” Kids need consequences that are relevant to them without putting a burden on someone else.
In a classroom setting, if a student is using technology for something other than schoolwork, the consequence might be that the device is taken away. If they use tablets to take notes, then the natural consequence of misusing it is that they have to use pen and paper. If students are using devices to create presentations, they have the option of completing the project at home or again, pulling out the stone-age tools of pen and paper and creating a rough draft that way.
3. Use Your Powers for Good
With recent hurricanes ravaging the south, and the strongest earthquake in Mexico in a century shaking up and destroying homes south of the border, there is no shortage of terrible things happening. People all over the country and all over the world need help, and no student is too small or too young to make a significant impact. Consider using technology to teach your students the value of humanitarian aid. No matter the subject you teach, there are things your students can do to leverage technology to help people around the world.
To cite a few examples, FirstGiving, Pledgie, and GoFundMe exists for purposes just like this. DonorsChoose is another one that is specifically for classrooms if you have a project that needs funding or just to raise awareness or bring support to fellow educators. Students can use these tools to create awareness of what is going on in the world, or they can use them to facilitate projects of their own.
4. Make Classroom Content Shareable
There are several examples of classrooms across the country that are doing this perfectly. Teachers are now posting documents such as syllabi online for parents to review. Some schools even offer parent accounts so parents can track their child’s progress. Even students are able to collaborate using cloud-based software to work on and complete projects together.
Students are going to need to be able to navigate software programs and share ideas as they go through school and beyond, and as they grow in their professions. Whether this looks like a classroom website that all students can post homework assignments or class notes, or a Facebook page where students can bounce ideas off each other, we have seen firsthand the significant results of educators creating and promoting shareable tech.