Using technology in the primary classroom

Posted on January 12, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

I am by no means an expert at using technology in the classroom- but I will give you 3 do’s and 3 don’t s that I have learned about using tech in the classroom.
1) DO ask the kids to bring their own devices to school. I know this is taboo for some people because they couldn’t possibly fathom their 6 year old bringing a $700 iPad to school every day, but I can say that it has worked for me and the school I am at. The great part of having children bring their own devices to school is that it allows them to “log on” or start working much faster than if they had to use the school’s technology. They already know how to use it, and they are in charge of it- they have a inherent sense of responsibility towards that piece of technology because it is theirs. I have found that even though the children may be working on a small screen (iPod or old iPhone) they are still more efficient in writing activities on THAT then having them try to figure out a foreign school laptop or netbook. That said, your school’s wifi will need to be able to handle having students connect to the network, and it IS a new teaching challenge to teach young children how to connect to the wifi… but in my mind it has been worth it completely!

2) DON’T put your apple id onto students devices. You might be thinking that this is obvious- well I have made this mistake!! I have had problems every time I have tried to get my student’s an app, or send an email through my ID on their device. One year I put my apple id onto a students iPad so that I could get her an app we needed that day, and from that point on, syncing to both her home computer and my work computer was a nightmare. I think I even gave them my apple id password so they could keep the apps on her device once they were synced up at home.
I even have a horror story of me putting my class email onto a students device so that he could email me a project, and then somehow my PERSONAL i-notes from my own iPhone ended up on his iPod. I had notes from my pastor’s sermons on there, my own personal journalling, and other random shopping lists and notes that you would have on your phone. iCloud is a great thing, but apparently it is also GREAT at syncing things even if you don’t want them synced! Thankfully, the students mom was awesome and came in and let me know what happened.

3) DO connect and network with other educators who are using technology in their classroom- whether they are primary teachers or not! Now, I am a twitter fan, and love it for professional development, but I know not everyone feels like they have the time for this. (Might I add that twitter serves an ENTIRELY different purpose than Facebook, just in case you were going to tell me that you don’t need twitter because you have Facebook!) If you choose twitter as the way to connect with other educators, start by following great teachers. You can search for people who are having conversations about education through the hashtag #edchat, #kinderchat #1stchat etc. or follow me at @mrsmaley or my class at @mrsmaleysclass… BUT let me say that even though I am pro-twitter, there is one professional development opportunity that I am a part of that even beats twitter. It can happen right within your own school! At my school we call it Tech Tuesdays. Another teacher and I have started a little club on Tuesdays after school where we share tech tools that we are trying, or ones we have found and WANT to try out. Every second week we have Appy Hour, where we specifically share apps that can be used in the classroom. #rbeappyhour The other Tuesdays we leave it open to any tech tool; smart boards, web based tools etc. These meetings have been huge in giving me confidence to use technology in the classroom. It is not one person teaching others about a tool, but the entire group having a conversation about a tool and how they think (or know) it can be used in the classroom. If you have ever heard of edcamp, it is like a little mini edcamp every Tuesday. Sometimes it is just the other teacher and I, and sometimes it is lots of teachers from other schools too! Either way, we don’t care! Every conversation is beneficial. Don’t have a club like this in your school? START ONE. All it takes is a classroom to meet in and you- wanting to talk about tech in the classroom.

4) DON’T jump in over your head with tech. Too many times I feel like teachers look at what I do and think that it is impossible or too hard for them to do it all. They are right! It IS impossible to do everything I am doing if you are just starting! Start small. Choose one thing you are interested in. Maybe you just want to start by Skyping another primary classroom. Great! Do that a few times in the year. Maybe you want to start a class blog- fabulous- get one set up and start slow. Look at how other people are doing it, and be a copy cat! Maybe you want the kids to bring their devices once a week and you can plan one lesson around the devices for just that day every week. Whatever it takes, start slow so that you don’t get frustrated and give up. The worst thing you can do is try too much stuff and then fail at everything. Get good at one thing and then add on!
5) DO teach the students to use technology properly. When I ask parents to allow their kids to bring their own tech to the classroom, it also comes with the promise that I will be showing them how to use it properly. Now, I don’t literally mean teaching them how to use it in terms of pressing buttons and hand swiping motions, but rather I teach digital citizenship. We tweet as a classroom and we talk about safe followers, and unsafe people- we talk about what is acceptable to post on our blog and what is not. I use the words inappropriate and appropriate a lot. But ultimately we talk about it being a heart issue. They are not always going to have a teacher or parent standing behind them when they are on the computer/idevice and they need to recognize that feeling of uncomfortableness when they come across something that is not appropriate. Tech is just another tool to talk about their conscience- and making good decisions.
6) DON’T treat technology as a reward. I know that lots of parents use technology and devices as rewards for their kids for good behaviour or eating all their supper. In a classroom setting, you can’t do this. The children need to know that technology is just another tool in the classroom. It is just like a pencil or a ruler. It serves a purpose and it will not always be the best tool for the job. Sometimes a pen and sticky note are better classroom tools than the iPad. If a kid was misbehaving, you wouldn’t take away his/her pencil would you? That would stop them from working on the assignment at hand. Treat it like any other classroom tool… If they were stabbing the kid beside them with that pencil, YES you would take it away. But eventually you would give it back after going over proper expectations. Same thing with technology. They need to know your expectations and follow them. Rewarding them with technology or taking tech away reinforces the wrong attitude towards technology in the classroom. It reinforces that it is a toy that is used for fun- and once all the “real work” is done they get to go play on the idevice. That’s not what we want. We want the students to be practicing higher level thinking skills. The iPad is a perfect example of how technology can ENHANCE learning in ways that were never possible before. It allows analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

There are many ways to use technology in the classroom, and in this post I haven’t given you a whole lot of practical resources. But I hope you can start to see some of the pedagogy BEHIND why I use tech in the classroom and some of the do’s and don’ts I have come across. Good luck!

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One Response to “Using technology in the primary classroom”

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Oh, I really like your Dos & Don’ts. I’m an aspiring educator, well recently I was involved in the development of an online module for a university. That introduced me to the world of educational technology. I agree with you on Twitter. I created an account 2 years ago but only used it actively when I got that job. I came across The Guardian’s Global Development Network which does a live online discussion with panel of experts and Twitter was one of the media used. I tried Twitter live chat and loved it!
Have you heard of @safesmartsocial? They teach kids how stay safe and smart online.
Will follow you both here & via Twitter. 🙂

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