The popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with high-tech video games and 21st century entertainment for our students outside of school is necessitating a change in the way we as educators prepare and present information to our students. Gone are the days where we can get away with 50 minutes of lecturing. Our students are watching engaging Youtube videos and reading Facebook statuses to get their information instead of reading magazines and waiting for their favorite shows to come on TV. Today’s students want their classroom experience to be as engaging as their lives outside of school. The only problem is that most of us did not grow up in the same technological age as our students. Integrating technology into your daily plans can be a very daunting task for an educator who is not familiar with Web 2.0 tools. Here are 5 tips that will help you start using technology in your classes.
1- Get comfortable with one piece of technology at a time.
Your PLN is probably already inundating your Twitter feeds with more Web 2.0 tools than you know what to do with. Pick the most relevant tools and get comfortable using them at home. Then, do a trial run at school before you introduce the activity to your students to make sure the school’s computers have all of the necessary plug-ins and updates. Just like we tell our students, practice makes perfect. If you don’t feel comfortable using technology, you will be even less comfortable teaching it to your students.
2 - Involve students in your planning.
Before I begin any technology project, I introduce the technology to a few of my students and get their opinions on it. The students know what they like and what will hold their interest. If they like it, I make that piece of technology a priority in my planning, but if they appear uninterested, I toss out that idea and revisit my Twitter feed looking for something new. Ask your students what technology they use on a regular basis. If all of your students use Facebook, make it a part of your class.
3 - Lean on colleagues who have successfully (and unsuccessfully) integrated technology into their classrooms.
Whenever you try something new, either professionally or personally, it is helpful to have the guidance of someone who has “been there, done that.” Meet with colleagues in your building or call on your PLN for assistance when you start integrating technology into your lessons. Most teachers are more than willing to share their successes and failures with interested colleagues. You will be able to learn from their mistakes and not have to deal with some of the growing pains your colleagues had to go through.
4 - Don't get discouraged if your first attempt doesn't work out as planned.
Just like our students, we learn the most when we take risks and fail. Don’t let one negative experience with technology turn you off to using it in your class in the future. Ask your students what the positive and negative aspects of the project were and take their advice to heart. Reflect on their observations, what you noticed on your own, then modify your plans and try, try again.
5 - Technology integration may be extra work on the front end, but it's worth the effort!
Trying something new as opposed to going with the tried and true lesson always produces a little extra work. However, the long-term benefits of engaging your students far outweigh the cost of spending a couple extra hours in front of the computer after school. As I have learned, the extra effort goes a long way to engage the students in your lesson and leave them wanting more.
Keep these five tips in mind as you begin to integrate technology into your lesson plans. With a little research, patience, and creative thinking, you will be well on your way to facilitating a 21st century classroom full of engaged, motivated students.