My Top Tech Tips and Giveaway

As many of you who read my blog know, I was part of a 1:1 MacBook pilot for my district last year with my first grade class.  (1:1 means each student in the class has their own wireless device.)  Since only a handful of us were part of the pilot, I didn’t have many people to mentor me aside from the ones who were newbies like myself.  Therefore, I had to learn from my own failures and successes to determine what worked best for me.  I’m in no way claiming to be a technology or 1:1 expert, but I wanted to share what I have learned thus far in an effort to help others who may be implementing new technology this year (and who might be feeling a little overwhelmed like I was).  Here are my top pieces of advice for implementing any new technology in your classroom.   

-Start a classroom website or blog (if you don’t have one already).  Make sure it’s one you’re comfortable with using so that you’re more likely to utilize it with your students and update it frequently.  I’ve had good experiences with Weebly, Teacher Web, and eChalk, which my district recently adopted.  My website has lots of helpful information for parents and is my main source of communication with them.  It is also the center of my teaching within my classroom walls.  All the website links, videos, center activities, and files for my students to download are found on there.  Be sure to post links to any helpful practice sites, such as Spelling City, Xtra Math and IXL.  I had much better luck with students practicing skills at home once I put fun links up. 

-Have a simple and consistent way to share files and videos with your students, whether it’s via Google Docs, Dropbox or putting a direct download on your class website or blog.  I would also recommend having a consistent way that students turn work back into you.  

-Label every single piece of technology in your classroom, especially headphones and splitters.  This one is a no brainer, especially if you share items between classrooms or your students travel to other rooms.  My first graders had their own individually-numbered headphones and I felt that they took better care of them knowing that they were their own.

-Before students even touch a piece of technology, model appropriate use and care as well as consequences for any misuse.  It’s a good idea to post signs around your room about the expectations.  You might even want the students and their parents to sign an agreement stating that they will treat the technology with care.   I keep a running technology infraction record so that if anything gets ruined, I have documentation.  Even if a student accidentally drops a laptop and nothing happens, I write it down just in case. 

-We all know that technology fails us at times.  Be sure to model what students are to do if they experience technical difficulties.  What do you want them to do if their computer freezes, the internet goes out, or the site they’re on is not responding?  I had certain steps I wanted my first graders to try in order, and if none of them worked, they were to work with a partner or read a book until the next center transition and then they could ask me for help.  They were not allowed to come up to me while I was working with a small group.  As hard as it was for me to not jump up and help them, it paid off in the long run because they learned how to be self-sufficient and problem-solve on their own.

-Post Mac or PC commands your students will frequently use, such as copy/paste and save, along with a big keyboard so you can point out where to find certain keys.  Feel free to grab mine.

-This one is a toughie: keep track of all those usernames and passwords.  Everyone has their own preference on how to keep track of this info.  I always keep a master list of my whole class’ info that I print from each site we join.  That way I don’t have to log into the site to find a student’s password.  My fourth graders use the “Keeping Track of my Sites” sheet below to keep track of their various usernames and passwords.  It stays in their binder so they can easily access it when needed.  I plan on making a copy of everyone’s so they can keep one at home as well.  If you prefer to keep cards on a ring, you can grab the other format for free below (graphics From the Pond).

-Be patient—it will seem like you’re wasting a lot of time “teaching the technology,” but try to incorporate teaching the tech into the lesson rather than in isolation.  It’s just like any other routine your kids need to get used to, such as lining up—the more times you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

-My final piece of advice is this: don’t use technology with your students just for the sake of using it and for the glitz factor.  I used to feel a lot of pressure to have my students on their laptops at all times since the district was investing so much money into the program.  I thought that if any admin walked into my room and my students were playing regular old center games or doing a worksheet that they would be disappointed in me.  Luckily, my principal quickly reassured us that that was not at all what they wanted.  Kids still need to interact with each other and write in journals and on worksheets.  Look at your objective and ask yourself whether technology can help your students meet it.  If your answer is yes, then great—use it!  If your answer is no, use something you have done in the past that you know works.  There are so many amazing Web 2.0 tools that I’m dying to try out with my students this year, but I have to keep reminding myself that technology is merely a tool to enhance learning—not the be-all, end-all.

I'm linking this post up with April from The Idea Backpack.  You can link any post you have written on technology and enter her giveaway.
Speaking of technology, are you following Technology Tailgate yet?  It’s my one-stop site for anything related to tech.  There are some amazing contributors who give great tips about incorporating tech in the classroom, and there is a giveaway going on right now!  Be sure to check it out and enter to win my Summer Olympics Literacy Pack and many other awesome goodies.