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5 Steps for Planning Lessons Around Technology – Starting with the End in Mind

by Anne Karakash on August 28, 2014

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“And then one day everything changed for me …”

Teacher Anne Karakash is a recipient of a 2004 Fulbright Scholarship and a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certified teacher. She enjoys teaching in a 1:1 classroom at Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina and at Wake Technological Community College in Raleigh. Karakash will be presenting the session, “Colorful, Dynamic and Interactive: Reimagining Classroom Content”, at the 2014 Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference this November in Raleigh, NC. In this article, she shares how she ‘turned the corner’ on tech integration in teaching and embraced it from a new perspective …

Veteran teachers have seen the landscape of education go through drastic changes over the last two decades. Given the mandate to include technology in our lessons, we have gone from tape recorders, to DVDs, to LCD projectors, webpages, and now many schools are issuing iPads to students.

I recall when each lesson I taught had to include a technology component and administrators would always inquire as to how I was adding technology to my classroom content. And for years I would design my lessons so that I could be sure to include some sort of technology. I would hunt online for things that could be tacked on to the lesson so that I could answer affirmatively whenever I was asked if I was meeting technology requirements.

And then one day everything changed for me. While researching online for something to add onto a lesson on art, I found a video that was beautiful, intriguing, and fell neatly into my curriculum. Instead of adding it on to an established lesson, I took a different approach and I built a lesson around the video instead. The focus went from adding technology to my lessons as an afterthought, and instead the technology became the starting point of my lesson.

Beginning with the video, I created content that related to it: Identify which of the following things you saw in the video, mark the place on the map where the video was shot, explain the purpose of this video, etc. I then found links online to content that expanded the lesson so that students could explore other art that related to the lesson. It occurred to me to add a link to Google Earth so that my students could look around the area where the video was created. And, before I knew it, I had created a multimedia lesson that held my students’ attention for the whole period and that inspired many of them to explore further in their free time. It was a Gestalt moment for me and I knew what I had to do: Use technology as the genesis and create the lesson from there to support and expand upon it.

Karakash-5StepsforLessonsPic

To create these sorts of lessons takes time and energy, but the reward in student attention and motivation is great.

I recommend the following steps when you begin to plan your lessons around the technology:

  1. Plan: Consider your curricular content. Some lessons are well suited to videos, others to photography, and yet others to interactive maps. There is nearly an infinity of technology from which teachers can choose, so it is important to think about what is the best fit.
  2. Research: Search online for content that meets your needs. You will want material that is relevant to your curriculum, that is classroom appropriate, and that will be of interest to your students. You will probably want to avoid videos that are very long, games that have a violent component, and webpages that are filled with advertising.
  3. Engage: Once you have your technology focal piece, create an activity that will ensure that students interact attentively with it. This could be a chart they fill out while watching a video, comprehension questions following a podcast, a map that is detailed while they explore online, or any other sort of activity you might imagine.
  4. Explore: Following the engagement activity, you will want students to branch out and explore the topic further. This is a good place to add links in your lesson to webpages that show other perspectives, more photos, or take the students deeper into the content.
  5. Synthesize: Students should bring together the various material they have explored in a way that demonstrates their comprehension. This may be a simple written summary, a small presentation, a collection of photos with captions, or a simulation activity. This does not differ from how you would create a culminating activity in your other lessons. Some examples from my own class were having students plan imaginary parties, find pictures online that illustrated certain concepts, write blog posts, create travel brochures or have them create their own comprehension activities to give to their fellow students. Ideas abound and if you find yourself stumped, you can probably find good ones in your own faculty workroom and in online teaching communities.

Teachers already know about webpages and videos, of course. There are an unending supply of good ones from which to choose and that is a great place to start, but if you are having trouble thinking of other technology to enhance your lessons, here are a few ideas to consider: music and song lyrics, Google Earth and other interactive maps, image slideshows, Quia.com and other sites with educational games, personality quizzes, podcasts, virtual tours, blogs, news, and polls.

Depending on your school circumstances and rules, you might be able to add Skype or similar technology to your lessons so students can interact live with people (authors, artists, primary sources, people from other cultures, foreign language speakers, and so on).

Ultimately the only limit to creating technology-centered lessons is the time that a teacher has available to dedicate to them. You will not be able to create every one of your lessons in this way but, with each one you do, you will find your students more interested and more engaged with your content than ever before.

Come and learn more from Anne and dozens of other practitioners at the original iPad focused education conference – Teaching and Learning with the iPad, November 20 – 22, in Raliegh, NC. Hope to see you there!

ipad education conference

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Technology for the Core – Apps and Tools for the Literacy Curriculum Reading Strand
August APP ED REVIEW Roundup – Lesson Planning Apps
Technology Integration Secrets of Award Winning Teachers

About 

Anne teaches in a 1:1 classroom at Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina and at Wake Technological Community College in Raleigh. She has traveled and taught professionally in Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, and Japan. The recipient of a 2004 Fulbright Scholarship, is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and has a master’s degree from North Carolina State University in Foreign Language Education. Her final master’s project was an action research on her paperless classroom. She has presented at numerous conferences on the topic of educational technology including an in-service for faculty at Universidad Nacionalidad de Cuyo, Wake County Public School System, 2013 Luddy Conference on Educational Technology, and she will present at the 2014 iPads in Education conference in Raleigh this fall.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicky Yeung October 11, 2015 at 4:13 am

Hi Anne,
Thank you for the post. You know, I feel like my brain has been tipped upside down and it’s cool! The way I’ve been integrating tech, I usually come up with a lesson and then see how tech can be used as a tool towards the end to show learning. It’s pretty cut. But, you’ve shown me that I should be more open minded, dig further into the resources technology offers, and design lesson ideas around it. I teach kindergarten right now and I have many language learners in the class so thanks for the extra tips as well .. I can see myself using videos and pictures to spring board into character education, and language and literacy skills.

Anne Karakash October 29, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Amita, Thank you so much for your comment. I hope the teachers at your school like the idea and have success using technology in their lessons.

You mention differentiation and I think you are absolutely right. Technology can make differentiation so much easier. As a long-time foreign language teacher, I used to play listening comprehension passages on the CD player at the front of the classroom. I would play a passage twice – maybe three times if I felt generous, then we would have to move on. Sometimes certain students felt they needed more practice but we didn’t have enough class time for it. But nowadays I don’t use the CD player anymore. I share links with my students instead. Now those students who only need to hear the passage once, can listen once and move on to other things. And those that need to hear it twice, three times, or more can have the freedom to do so. Moreover, if a child wants to go home and listen fifteen or more times, his classmates don’t need to know that. This one simple change, allowed by modern technology, gives students autonomy, privacy, and personal control over their own learning.

Be well!

–Anne

Amita Patel October 26, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Hi Anne,
I love your 5 point recommendations & I would like to take it to my teachers – I am a tech coach at my school. I can clearly see how simple it would be for them to apply these steps and create a comprehensive lesson along with differentiation.
Thanks.

Anne Karakash August 29, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Hi Jerry. Thanks for your positive comment. I agree that the synthesis of the material is an important step. It is the wrap-up of the lesson that allows students to demonstrate their comprehension of the material and, in many cases, encourages them to use even more technology in the process. Furthermore, as a foreign language teacher, deepening students’ abilities to express and share their ideas (as you so beautifully put it), is exactly what I’m doing my best to accomplish. All the best, –Anne

Jerry Dugan August 29, 2014 at 11:55 am

Anne, I love that you included “Synthesis” as one of your five steps. This takes technology infusion the next step from simply receiving information with technology tools to using technology as mindtools to deepen students’ abilities to express and share their ideas.

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