The focus for this week’s blog is to find/identity preventative measures, strategies, and/or professional tips that can help us deal with some of the difficulties of bringing technology into a classroom. We decided to focus on finding solutions for the cons we identified last week in our blogs.
I was actually just reading through some of my classmates’ blogs and stumbled upon Liz’s entry about how to address distractions in the classroom due to electronic devices and tech. I highly suggest reading her blog and checking out the following page she posted that presents some insightful tips on how to deal with these issues. Although I didn’t even touch on the whole “distraction” debate last week, I thought it would be worth mentioning now, considering how much of an obstacle it really is at school.
Last week I spent a lot of time discussing issues relating to funding and technology availability. Whether that implies computer to student ratios, Wi-Fi and bandwidth availability, or having enough support and training available to teachers, these are issues that most teachers encounter on a day-to-day basis.
Since I spent so much time talking about funding last week, how about I just go straight into it right off the bat? I never really put too much serious thought into this question, but I always forget about the option of applying for grants or other forms of educational sponsorships. Plenty of the resources I read (like this one and this one)
pointed me towards this option, and although it’s not a guaranteed way to gain those extra computers or IPads that you were hoping to get for your classroom, it’s definitely something to consider when your school administrators or community are unable to provide these things for your students.
This site for example lists off a few places where we can seek extra funding from outside sources and donors. It also talks about fundraising and other routes we can take. Although most of these resources and contacts are American, they are definitely available in Canada as well.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had several of my coworkers apply for numerous types of grants, including tech grants. One of my coworkers applied for an IPod Touch grant about 7 years ago and used the IPods with his grade 1 class a couple of times every day. His classroom was definitely a strong attempt at implementing blended learning into the classroom, and considering the fact that he was working with grade 1 French immersion students, I would definitely say he did a great job of getting all those kids comfortable with a device. Students used the IPads for all sorts of vocabulary building activities. They’d listen to ebooks, play educational math games, and even use their devices to look up words in the dictionary on a daily basis.
As far as getting good use of the devices, I’d definitely say his classroom was a good example of blended learning in action; but as for attaining the grant, it wasn’t too easy. The process is definitely time-consuming, and it differs from organization to organization. It goes without saying that a lot of time and work must go into these types of processes, but if the teacher or school is willing to put in the work, the results can be extremely rewarding. Most of my coworkers that ended up getting their technology grants did it because they wanted to try new things out in their classrooms. Even the most privileged schools won’t always have 1:1 computer to student ratios, so sometimes applying for grants is your only shot at getting what you want.
The following resource presents a few tips and solutions on how to improve the way we use tech in a language class with limited resources. I found this pretty useful because it gave useful suggestions on how to make bring blended learning elements to any classroom. As the blog suggests, sharing and allotting times and schedules for your classroom resources is a good way to take what you have available to you, and stretching it out as far as you can. We can’t always avoid availability issues, sometimes our best solutions are simply to get smarter on how we’re using and sharing them amongst everyone.
This article discusses how technology is absolutely necessary in the classroom if we want to address all students’ needs. I found it interesting that the author mentions how regardless of what we have available to us, it is our job as teachers, to find ways to make these tools easy and helpful to use. I also liked how she mentions that we must play advocators to technology. If we don’t sell it to the kids, then why are they going to want to use it? You must show students the value in using and having these tools available to them, otherwise, they become distractions and burdens in our classrooms.
This article actually conducts a survey to see whether or not students are using tech to their advantage:
While numerous surveys suggest that the pervasive use of tablets, smartphones, laptops and digital education content in the classroom is expanding and changing the role of teachers, the AdvancED study found little evidence of technology being used by students to strengthen learning in classrooms today.
I highly suggest reading the conclusive observations of this study, because they mention a lot of the factors that often plague tech use in the classroom. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the root of the issues comes down to the teachers:
We need to ensure that teachers are provided support and training so that they know how to integrate students’ use of technology into their classrooms and create a student-centric learning environment. Until teachers and administrators are convinced that technology can be a help not a hindrance to learning, the shift will not happen. The teacher is the key to students successfully using technology as a learning and problem-solving tool. Students thrive when the teacher requires students to use technology not only for researching and writing but also to solve problems, work collaboratively and develop creativity (Rasmussen 2015).
From the readings I did this week, I’ve realized that a lot of the preventative measures we should be taking to avoid issues of funding and availability often lay in the hands of the teachers or the schools. If a teacher is unable to persuade their administrators for additional tech in the class (or any type of support of this type), funding is often only available through grant applications. I also learned how to make the best use of what you do have already, as sometimes grants aren’t an option for all schools or communities.
Furthermore, teachers must be driven, well-trained and have a focus and plan of action ready to go before putting any of these things in place in their classrooms. We can have all the tools in the world, but if you’re unable to prove that these things are benefitting your students, then why bother bringing them in in the first place?