New tech tools are some of the most exciting resources to start using with your students—and also the most daunting to introduce without a few misgivings on your part. Before you know it, something goes missing, gets dropped, or the device is now speaking French. I would be lying if I said all of these didn’t happen at least once during my time as an elementary teacher. However, with careful planning, a few organizational tricks, and lots of practice, this doesn’t have to be the case. As you prepare for another school year, consider these tech tips to help manage technology in your elementary classroom without fear or frustration.
Model. Practice. Repeat.
Just as you would teach any other desired behavior or classroom routine, working with technology is no different. These days, many students will enter the classroom as early as pre-K with experience using smart phones and tablet devices (amongst other technology tools). They may know how to launch their favorite app or snap a picture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to use the device cooperatively and responsibly in your classroom. No matter the level of experience, teach each procedure explicitly before your students’ desires to use a shiny device takes over like a siren song. Check out these five tips to get started:
- Teach students to never bring food, beverages, or magnets near technology.
- Model how to carry devices with two hands—a common phrase I used was “hug your tablet”.
- Instruct students how to carefully plug in or remove cords without excessive force.
- Since technology is often used during rotations, select a student to be your ‘technology expert’ who can assist others when you are working with a small group.
- Turn technology glitches into teachable moments by once again modeling and practicing correct behaviors.
Provide visual cues.
Anchor charts, stickers, and login cards can become your best friend when it comes to setting up successful technology areas in your classroom. As much as you physically practice or verbally remind students of desired behaviors, there are times when a visual cue can reinforce procedures in a new and different way. Step-by-step guides make great resources for outlining procedures to locate a device, log on, and shut down. Similarly, different colored stickers can be used to help students identify which device to use, and login cards can save you from ever hearing “I forgot my password” again. Get a closer look at a few of my favorite visual cue tips below:
- Post and label pictures of how a station should look before and after use—chair pushed in, mouse on table, login screen displayed for the next student, etc.
- For young students using a desktop computer, add stickers to the mouse or keys that are commonly used.
- Laminate login cards and add to a pocket chart or small ring if students have more than one to remember.
- Assign and number any mobile devices using stickers or (for those who are tech savvy) add a numbered device wallpaper.
- Create shortcuts to frequently visited sites on desktop or home screens.
Find an organizational system that works.
Whether you have two devices or twenty, your coveted technology still needs a place to call home. No matter if you prefer a fixed table, rolling cart, or a single shelf, find a location that is easily accessible for students to both retrieve and correctly stow away devices. As you determine the right spot in your room, think through any required accessories as well. Is there space for slots or hooks to hold login cards? Where will chargers be plugged in? How can headphones be tucked away without creating a tangled mess? Answering these questions ahead of time will ensure you create a system that can last all year long. Take a peek at a few additional organizational strategies here:
- Ensure devices aren’t kept adjacent to a classroom sink, bathroom, or the class fish (Goldie doesn’t want to swim with the tablets).
- Seek out clever storage solutions such as dish racks, pot lid racks, plastic drawers, and jewelry storage for devices and accessories.
- Add command strips to the sides of computers or on walls to hang headphones from.
- Contain hanging cords using twisty ties to prevent tripping hazards.
- Do a quick search for device tips to help lock down access and functionality—if you don’t, you just might pay for it later (with an iPad speaking French).
Looking for more information about incorporating technology tools in your classroom? Take a look at this blog post on Effective Edtech Implementation, or check out our Tech in the Classroom Pinterest board!