Knowing About These can Help you Avoid Them in Your Approach to Integrating Technology in the Classroom
Are you tentative about how to go about integrating technology in your classroom? Are you already doing it, but want to make sure you’re doing the right thing by your students? Teaching with technology can be fun and engaging, but it's easy to make a few errors in your approach that can lead to unfortunate consequences for your students, or discourage them from fully participating.
Here's a set of issues you would do well to avoid when assigning technology based work to your students (note that many of these apply to students of all ages).
- Using technology that you don't have a basic understanding of: If you are asking students to use a specific application, it is highly advisable that you have basic knowledge of how it works, so you can offer some guidance. Students may struggle excessively and become frustrated, or do things they really shouldn’t do. Learn the basic ins and outs of applications that you plan to use in assignments. (Of course, if you decide with your students to dive into something new together, that's a different story).
- Using applications that may display inappropriate content: Make sure you think about this, especially if you have younger students. And ‘inappropriate' can come in many forms – from major issues like overtly sexual or violent content to lesser but still relevant concerns like advertising. Naturally, the younger the student, the more of a concern this type problem is. Always consider this before you send students to a site.
- Using technology that isn't supporting the lesson plan: If the tech is there just for tech's sake, and the way it is incorporated in the lesson plan isn't facilitating the lesson's intended learning outcomes, then why are you using it?
- Not planning for students who have no, or limited, access to the computers, the Internet, etc.: If you require the use of Internet applications for completing assignments, be sure that your students have access. If the work is going to be done in school, where they have access to the tools they need, then there shouldn’t be an issue. If work needs to be completed outside of normal class time, then you need to be sure that if you have students who have limited access to the functionality they need, you plan for ways to help accommodate them (direct them to the school’s library, make time in class before school, or whatever makes sense based on the situation).
- Using a lot of technology tools that require the creation of user accounts: Try and avoid this, as it is a bit of a pain for students to remember lots of different accounts and password. There is also some gray area in terms of teacher’s requiring the creation of personal accounts on social media sites, etc., for their students (especially for younger students). It may be within a student’s rights to refuse to create an account on an Internet site if it seems to somehow violate their privacy (which can depend on the types of info requested by the site).
- Using applications that are highly distracting: One of the frequent complaints I hear about using YouTube in the classroom is that the way they display lots of associated content can be quite distracting. The same can go for many social media sites, and for advertising content displayed on sites. If you can embed content from a site into a web page of your design, this can one way to address this. Be sure to consider the ‘distraction factor' when selecting tools to use.
- Using sites that are blocked by your school: This would seem like a no brainer, but with the high availability of independent wireless access, it might not even occur to you that you are using an app or site that is blocked on your school’s network. This will just create frustration for students who try to access the tool from the school.
- Using personal Facebook accounts or using Facebook with < 13 year olds: You really don’t want to have to friend student’s personal Facebook Accounts, or have them friend your personal account. If you are going to use Facebook as part of an assignment (which is not necessarily a bad idea – click here to learn more about teachers using Facebook in the classroom), it is strongly advised that the teacher and students have accounts specifically intended for school use, separate from their personal accounts (Facebook frowns on this in their rules, but it is a pretty common practice). Also remember that Facebook asks that no one under 13 use their application (and I fully agree with that recommendation).
- Be vague or unclear with technology based assignment instructions: Make sure your instructions are clear and precise – for example, if you tell students “post ____ on the Internet” but give no guidance as to how or where, you are asking for potential problems and confusion. Similarly, if you say, find ______ on the Internet, students may be exposed to inappropriate content, or simply get distracted (click here to learn about safe search engines for kids). You should always be sure give clear guidance for all assignments.
- Using proprietary software or applications that require hardware that not everyone has access to: Strive for either device-independent applications or applications that you know everyone can use (because they are going to work on the related assignment while in the computer lab with you, for example). Avoid applications that require specific hardware that not everyone may have (i.e. iPad only, if not everyone has access to an iPad) or that require a certain level of computing power that not everyone may have.
Hopefully these suggestions help you to avoid some potential issues while you leverage the amazing tools and resources available to us on the Web these days. If you are new to teaching with technology tools, these tips will help you get off to a good start! If you already using technology in the classroom and may have done some of the things noted here, no need to fret. At least you know that you will want to avoid doing it again. Of course, few things in life are black and white either, so some of these things can be done without incurring significant challenges – consider these suggestions opportunities for improvement in your approach.
Do you have some other suggestions that you think should be included here? Please share them in a comment! Thanks.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
20 Warning Signs That you are Falling Behind the Times with Technology as a Teacher
Worried about Students Searching the Web Safely? 8 Safe Search Engines for Kids
8 Exciting Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning Approaches That Teachers are Embracing in 2014