If you’re a new teacher and thinking about using ed tech in your classroom, this is what you need to know or do.
Off-message advice coming up. This may upset people of a sensitive nature.
Establish yourself as the boss
This applies whatever subject or year group/grade you’re teaching, but is especially apposite when it comes to education technology. You need to establish your classroom as a safe environment, that is physically safe as well as psychologically safe. That means making sure the kids know who’s boss.
Thinking of asking the kids what they’d like to learn today? Don’t make me laugh. Want to give them five minutes free time to check their emails? What is this, a holiday camp?
You may want to do those things, and perhaps your school even encourages them, but the pupils have to understand that you give them leeway out of strength, not weakness.
If in doubt, just bear in mind the old teaching adage: don’t smile for the first half-term.
Don’t believe the ‘digital native’ myth
You may have heard that all people under the age of 30 are digital natives: they can use any technology you put in front of them, more or less as soon as they’re born.
It’s nonsense. It may have been a useful analogy (it certainly got people talking), but it’s not a description of the true situation.
Many, though by no means all, young people are good at picking up the basics of an application or piece of kit very quickly, and being seemingly impervious to any fear of its not working (which is probably a result of the fact that kids aren’t capable of assessing risk properly rather than anything else). What they are not so good at it is being able to consider any wider ramifications of what they do with the technology, or how to use it on a deeper level.
Don’t worry: your job is still safe.
What do you want to achieve?
It’s very useful to think about what you wish to achieve with your classes, and then think about, or find out, how technology might help you.
For example, if you want to encourage pupils to do creative writing, perhaps starting a class blog would be a good start.
Once you’ve thought about what you’d like to achieve, find out who is in charge of the education technology in the school and pick their brains. So you need to know…
Who’s in charge of the technology?
The school may have an ICT, technology or e-learning co-ordinator. (Unfortunately, there are several different terms for the same job. If in doubt, enquire about whose job it is to encourage other teachers to use technology.)
Sometimes, the person who is the ICT or Computing leader may also have the job of ICT co-ordinator, even though they require different skills.
What hardware and software does the school have?
Is the school a Microsoft, Apple or Google school, or a mixture? If the software is unfamiliar, then you’ll need to find out…
What ed tech training is available?
If the school has a technology induction programme, make sure you don’t miss any sessions. There may be an ed tech drop-in ‘surgery’ every Thursday after school, or a more formal CPD programme of events.
What’s the school’s policy on bring your own device (BYOD)?
Is it ok if pupils choose to use their own devices rather than the schools? If so, are there any procedures they must follow, such as getting online via the school wi-fi rather than via their mobile data connection? (Bear in mind that the latter may be used to circumvent the school’s web filtering.)
What is the procedure to follow if kids are using their own device when they shouldn’t be? Conversely, what do you do if the school has a BYOD policy in place and someone comes to school without theirs?
What’s the school’s e-safety procedures?
If pupils access pornography, engage in cyberbullying, are the victims of cyberbullying or if you suspect any other inappropriate use of the facilities, who ya gonna call?
How do you borrow or book equipment?
It’s better to find out before you need to, obviously.
What do you do if something goes wrong?
How do you report a fault? Think about having an alternative, unplugged, activity up your sleeve so that a pupil or the whole class can still get on with meaningful work even if the tech lets them down.
A good rule to bear in mind, when it comes to technology, is: it’s not a case of if it goes wrong, but when.
Where can you obtain good quality, useful information?
If you’re interested in using ed tech to its best advantage, you’ll need to know about some high quality resources. Here are a few to get you started:
Teacher Reboot Camp
This site by Shelly Terrell is amazing: full of information, resources, and challenges.
Follow Shelly on Twitter as well: https://twitter.com/ShellTerrell
The 10 Minute Teacher Podcast
Each podcast lasts around ten minutes, and the host is Vicki Davis. A whole range of topics is covered. Here’s the link:
Follow Vicki on Twitter too: https://twitter.com/coolcatteacher
The Whiteboard Blog
The title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer because it covers tablet apps and other audiovisual stuff too. There are great articles reviewing products and also explaining how to achieve various things with the technology.
The site is published by Danny Nicholson, and he is on Twitter as https://twitter.com/dannynic
The ICT & Computing in Education blog
That’s my one, and where you’re probably reading this article. I try to update the website several times a week during term time. There are tons of articles on the site, so have a rummage.
I’m on Twitter too: http://twitter.com/terryfreedman
The Digital Education newsletter
That’s mine as well. I started it in the year 2000, and it’s still going! I tend to include articles that go into more depth on particular topics, eg fake news was a recent one, and include information on useful events coming up, and book reviews, competitions, education research and, often, exclusive content for subscribers.
A recent issue (at the time of writing) featured articles entitled STEM Education, Education research: visible pseudoscience?, Girls and technology: a matter of biology?, Back to school and Trust me, I'm a facilitator, to name but a few.
To subscribe, just go to www.ictineducation.org/newsletter.
Well, hopefully, this article has given you plenty to think about, and some useful resources to explore. Used properly, education technology can be a great asset in the classroom and beyond.