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When Technology Goes Bad
My first year teaching I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to use some technology in the classroom. Class began and I was feeling good...until I couldn't find the play button on the VCR. In a rage, I picked up the VCR and threw it at the door...as the principal walked in. Realizing it was my first year teaching, he gave me a pat on the back and a list of technology tips for teachers to make better use of technology in the classroom.
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Tips for Teachers
- Keep it Simple: If using technology in the classroom causes you hours of extra work, it’s probably not worth the effort. The ultimate goal of technology is to simplify your life (stop laughing).
- Set the Example: It’s hard to get students excited about using new technology when you’re reproducing hand written worksheets with ditto machines, writing hieroglyphic notes on a chalkboard, and taking attendance with a memo pad.
- Learn from Students: Most of what I know about Powerpoint and Microsoft Word has come from students. Using computer applications is as natural for young kids as turning on a TV was for us. Asking students for help does more than just boost your knowledge; it boosts their self- esteem.
- Learn from Others: There’s always somebody who knows more about technology than you do, and he’s not always wearing glasses held together with masking tape, nor does he sport the latest in pocket protector fashion. In fact, he isn’t always a he. Most large schools have a teacher on staff who specializes in technology issues, and many schools have a technology committee, staffed by volunteer teachers.
- Use the School's Lab: Make use of the school computer labs. It’s a good idea to spend an hour or two at the beginning of the year familiarizing yourself with the lab rules, procedures, capabilities, and limitations. Find out how to schedule the lab and who’s in charge of it.
- Explain Technology Rules to Students: Leave nothing to chance. Be explicit. Students may not be able to craft a simple sentence without soiling themselves, but they know things about computers that could cause serious problems. Most schools require all students and their parents to sign a release before accessing school computers. If your school doesn’t, make your own form for them to sign.
- Use Your School's Equipment: Thousands of dollars of equipment may be sitting neglected this very moment. Find out who inventories equipment at your school, probably your technology ace or librarian, and see what might be useful in your classroom. Sharing equipment with colleagues is also an option.
- Always have a backup plan. Computers crash. Networks go down. Light bulbs burn out. Students become unruly. The VCR play button is covered up by a secret panel. Having a lesson or assignment in reserve puts you in charge, not the capricious whims of technology.
Feel free to share your own technology tips for teachers by clicking on comments above.