Before school starts, make the most of your summer with these tips from 2 one-to-one pros
The word is out. We hear every day from teachers who tell us their school will be going one-to-one this school year. Their classrooms will be equipped with a laptop or tablet for every student, and in many cases, the students will get to take those devices home at the end of the day. For some teachers this is overwhelming; for others it is exciting, and for a few it’s just plain scary. Wherever you are on that spectrum we have some advice to help you move forward and make the most out of these new resources in your classroom.
We both teach in one-to-one classrooms. Diana’s students have iPads that they take home, whereas Jen has a cart of laptops students use daily in her classroom. We’ve both been teaching with one-to-one in some capacity since 2008, and we also both coach our colleagues who are new to technology integration. If you know your school is going one-to-one this year, there are some things you can do this summer to get yourself geared up. Here are the top ten things we find ourselves telling teachers over and over:
Relax. Integrating technology into your classroom is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a few years before you and your students are completely comfortable with a range of digital tools and the ways they can enhance learning. Try not to worry about “keeping up with the pace of technology.” Realistically, none of us can do that. Just jump in where you can, and start getting comfortable with one thing at a time.
Next page: Why tackling one problem at a time makes sense
Learn the nuts and bolts. Your school or district will likely offer some professional development about this process. It probably won’t be enough, but take advantage of what is offered. Ask questions. Then, find your own training. For technical aspects about how things work, you can often find helpful tutorial videos on YouTube. Try searching for what you want to learn. For example, searching for “How to make a Google Form” will leads to several helpful videos that you can watch and use to practice at your own pace.
Log in to your Learning Management System (LMS). Most one-to-one programs include a recommended, or required, LMS. This is a password protected portal just for your class where you can post assignments, and discussion questions, and collect students’ digital work. Setting up your class pages on your LMS may take some time initially, but it will save you time later. If you have access to your LMS over the summer, try logging in and looking around.
Start with a problem. As teachers we spend our summers reflecting on changes we want to make and challenges we want to solve. We know plenty of teachers who start by using their LMS or their one-to-one devices to solve one pesky classroom issue. Commit to trying one tool or strategy with your students that you hope will help. Don’t try to change everything about your teaching practice all at once. Digital classrooms aren’t built in a day.
Plan to collaborate. Digital classrooms need digital resources. Many you can find online, but some you will want to make yourself or customize for your students. Digital resources are very easily shared. Generally, I collaborate with my colleagues by sharing a planning Google spreadsheet and then different people add links to articles, videos, or sites we can use to go with the curriculum. We use Dropbox to share documents we have created, graphic organizers, and student activities. Starting this process before you are busy with the day to day needs of being back in school will save you time in the long run.
Next page: Sites to help curate materials
Curate great content. We know teachers area always finding resources that will be helpful for learning. We recommend having one central place to keep all of your links to those “just right” materials, including TED talks, infographics, interactive articles, podcasts, and more. Your curation tool could be as simple as creating a spreadsheet in your Google Drive, or as sophisticated as using a curriculum canvas in Lino or a Dropmark collection.
Visit another one-to-one classroom. Someone down the hall at your school or nearby is likely further along in this process. Ask to visit their classroom and make a list of questions about what students are working on, and how the teacher facilitated those activities.
Enlist your students. The beginning of the year is a great time to ask your students about their previous experiences in digital learning. Ask them what kinds of digital projects they would like to try this year, and what workflow works well for them. They can also help you define expectations about using the devices so that you co-create a classroom culture together that supports learning and innovation.
Treat each new change as temporary. Ask your students to help you evaluate the tool or process as you make changes. This will encourage them to be metacognitive about what is (or is not) helping them learn and it will allow you to make a change if something isn’t working out. Our students love “beta testing” new tools to see what helps them learn more. They don’t even realize that giving specific critical feedback about the application is part of their learning.
Expect setbacks. Digital disasters happen, although they usually aren’t as disastrous as we fear. When the tech fails, take a deep breath, switch to a backup plan, and keep smiling. Remember that your students are watching you. The way you handle frustration and technical difficulties will be a model for them. As you learn to navigate having more educational technology in your classroom, you also get to model your learning process for your students.
With patience, practice, and perseverance incorporating digital tools into your teaching can be an exciting journey of discovery. You will find strategies that save you time, apps that engage your students, ideas that inspire, and projects that enable students to create amazing products. Have fun getting plugged in and powered up this coming school year!
Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts are the authors of Power Up: Making the Shift to one-to-one Teaching and Learning (Stenhouse, 2015). They both teach in one-to-one classrooms and coach colleagues about technology integration.