10 tips for planning the use of technology in lessons

Using educational technology effectively usually requires some planning. Here are ten suggestions.

1. Plan to use the technology as an integral part of the work, not a bolt-on activity that bears no relation to the curriculum.

Computers are only ONE type of technology that can be used in the classroom

2. A corollary of this is that it is not good practice, generally speaking, to regard the technology, eg computers, merely as a means of rewarding pupils who have completed their work, or as something to use when they have finished their “real” work. However…

3. …It is quite legitimate to fill 10 minutes at the end of a lesson with a computer-based activity designed to reinforce the work the pupil has or will be doing, or which can be seen to be a valuable activity in its own right.

For example, suppose a pupil has finished her work, and there are just 10 minutes left of the lesson. Rather than start her off on the next piece of work, or allow her to do nothing, you might ask her to load up a quiz related to the work, start up a typing program that will help her to improve her keyboarding skills (there are some good game-type programs around) or to do some work-related research on the internet. Clearly, it’s a good idea to have a bank of resources, eg useful websites and suggested activity lists, to use in this kind of way.

Alternatively, but equally as useful for both the pupil and the class, ask her to look for or even devise a teaching resource that could be used by other pupils. For example, she might start a discussion on a forum – something which is easily achieved in a safe manner if you have a learning platform or similar.

4. Go through your scheme of work, and identify areas where technology could be used to good effect. Look at the whole year, not just this month, because you may need to...

5. ...Book the computer room, computer equipment or software, laptops, netbooks, camcorders and so on, or technician time, well in advance.

6. Try to avoid reinventing the wheel. Try to get together with colleagues, or find resources on the internet.

7. You do not need to know everything about computers in order to use them effectively, but it is important that you are competent and confident in the skills that you will need when you come to use the computers. Therefore, look for courses and other professional development opportunities that may help you. Follow interesting and useful people on Twitter. If you follow me, for example, you can see who I follow and who follows me, and follow some of them. That will give you a good source of what I call “serendipitous professional development”. In my opinion, keeping in touch with colleagues, and the educational “gossip”, via blogs and sites like Twitter is essential.

There may be courses run “in-house” by the ICT Co-ordinator, courses run by the Local Authority’s Advisory team, local colleges or other organisations. Find out the procedure for booking yourself on courses.

Another option is to join Vital, which is free, and take part in the discussions there. Interest declaration: Drew Buddie and I run the secondary ICT Co-ordinators’ Forum. As part of that we also run a weekly online discussion every Tuesday at 7pm UK time. The next one is on 4th January, and features a guest speaker called Ashley Allain, a homeschooling mom in the USA who uses technology across all subjects. It should be very interesting and enlightening. You can join that discussion here. (All sessions start promptly at 7pm UK time unless otherwise stated, although you may enter a few minutes early if you wish. Here’s a world clock for colleagues who will be outside the UK at the time. The session will be hosted until 8pm, but the room won’t be closed until 9:30pm for colleagues who wish to continue the discussion.)

8. Check whether the pupils will have the requisite skills in time. Will they know how to use the software in the way you want then to? Check with the ICT Co-ordinator. Will, for instance, you have to build in the use of the computer room for a pre-lesson lesson on the basic skills required?

9. Plan for all your classes, or all the teaching groups in your department if you are in a secondary school, to use technology in the curriculum.

This may entail different classes doing the same topic at different times, or classes using the technology for different topics.

Part of the planning will focus on booking the resources where necessary and identifying suitable training courses for colleagues.

Bear in mind that part of your planning may entail liaising with technical support staff to ensure that the resources you intend to use have not been blocked.

10. Try to use technology in a meaningful way to enhance your subject, using your national or district curriculum guidelines. Bear in mind that many schemes of work are organised into categories or areas.

This is an updated version of an article published in February 2008.