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Guest Post by Britt Hansen, English Teacher, Duxbury Public Schools

As more school districts transition to a 1:1 classroom, teachers are faced with a new summer challenge.  What will my 21st-century classroom look like?  Here are seven tips to prepare for a classroom that uses technology to enrich the student learning experience and prepare the next generation for a dynamic workforce and global community.

1) Know your audience 

Survey your students and learn about their familiarity with technology during the first week of school.  Using Google forms or polling tools on an LMS such as Schoology to learn about your students and what tech tools they know well can make for smoother sailing in the year ahead.  If all of your students use Google Docs, and you are planning to have them use Microsoft Word, you will have to take into account the time it will take to teach them the nuances of the program.  If you are introducing new tech tools, be sure to account for the time you will lose teaching students your class content as you spend time troubleshooting new software with them.  What you may learn from your audience is that they may even introduce you to new ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.

2) Be consistent

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Source: https://pixabay.com/en/science-technology-education-1182713/

Choosing a few favorite technology platforms will help to make the shift to a classroom that uses technology smoother for both teachers and students.  Learning management systems such as Schoology or Edmodo can serve as the hub for classroom materials.  Choosing a platform and being consistent is crucial to using technology to enhance, rather than confuse, the learning process.

3) Choose Quality over Quantity 

When faced with many options, teachers can often feel overwhelmed by choice.  As student learning shifts to iPads and MacBooks, the teacher’s role is to organize the learning process in a way that is streamlined and efficient, without losing the creativity and open-minded aspects of learning.  One way to ensure that this happens is by choosing 2-5 innovative tech practices to use throughout the year.  In the classroom of the future, the quality of the tech you use can make all the difference.

4) Use technology to differentiate instruction

When it comes to learning, there is no one size fits all.  In order to ensure that all students are being challenged according to their abilities, technology can serve as a way to personalize the learning experience.  For example, websites like NoRedInk allow students to learn and be quizzed on grammar with immediate feedback.  Instead of working through endless grammar exercises with static sentences that need to be corrected by the teacher, NoRedInk surveys students on their favorite books, movies and music in order to create sentences that will engage them as they work through grammar lessons and exercise. Even better, students work toward mastery at their own pace.  Similarly Desmos, Doceri and GeoGebra can help students in math class.

5) Use technology to engage + connect

Ask what sort of experiences technology will allow that the old classroom cannot.  Can you improve student “buy-in” by incorporating social media such as iFake text, Twitter or Instagram?  Can you use Google Hangouts or maxresdefaultBlogger to connect with other classrooms across the globe and prepare students for a world that isn’t confined to their classroom?  Can you take students on virtual field trips? Gamify your classroom?  Receive immediate data from student assessments that will allow you to check for student understanding?  Kahoot! is an excellent tool for quizzing kids while also leveraging their competitive spirit.  Similarly, using memes, visual images, infographics and online communication platforms will help to bridge the gap between the classroom and outside world — which is technology’s secret strength.

6) Use technology to show problem solving

One barrier to openly embracing technology in the classroom is a fear of losing control.  Inevitably, there will come a day when the technology is “glitchy,” or not working as expected.  Showing students discomfort can only exacerbate the problem.  Instead, working through to find a solution—even if it means enlisting your most tech-savvy students — can be a perfect moment for students to engage in the art of navigating technology that doesn’t work.  Not only will there be a few laughs, but students will engage in the art of problem-solving, which they will no doubt need in their future careers.

7) Use technology to create efficiency

Gone are the days when students spend hours looking up the definitions of words, or a teacher spends late nights shuffling and organizing student work alphabetically.  One of the most important steps to preparing for the tech year ahead is to establish an organized system—folders for class content, go-to resources for looking up words or calculating numbers, and places where students can submit their work are just a few systems that technology can help to streamline.  Spending time in September to teach students how to organize their work in a way that they used to do with folders and binders is an often-overlooked aspect of preparing for a classroom that uses technology.

While I am in no way an expert and still a work-in-progress when it comes to creating a student-centered classroom that uses technology, these are just a few tips to prepare for the year ahead.  One aspect, however, remains clear: teachers and students are entering an education system that has changed very little in the past century until technology has provided the opportunity to do so.

Questions or comments? Email Britt here