8 tips for making the most of limited tech in the classroom

Rebecca and family

My name is Rebecca Valera and I have been teaching for about 8 years now. I am currently taking a break to raise my three beautiful children. I specialize in (and what I have mainly taught) math and science for grades 3-8. I have taught in both public and parochial (Catholic) schools in Texas. I play a variety of instruments (guitar, flute, percussion), love my growing family and am very passionate about my Catholic faith. With three kids 3 and under, I enjoy blogging, developing curriculum in my “free time.” My family and I currently reside in Garland, TX.

I am so excited to be guest blogging today about one of the biggest problems/advantages teachers have in the classroom…TECHNOLOGY.  Whether you have a lot or a little, something always seems to go wrong. My goal in this post is to be able to help you utilize the “little tech” you have in your classroom.

Let me first get you up to speed about me and my background before we dive in any further.  I have been teaching since January of 2006, in both public and parochial (Catholic) schools in Texas. I took a year off to help raise my three beautiful, young children, but I’ve been working hard trying to get ready for when I go back by creating resources for myself and other teachers.  Though there were times when I was overwhelmed by tons of tech in my classroom, I have also made do with little tech and always found a way to make it work for me and for my students. Here’s how.

making use of classroom technology

Photo by  Sean MacEnteeCreative Commons License 

1. Utilize the computer lab at your school

See if you can schedule a time to reserve it when it’s not being used.  Be sure to plan early and in advance, especially if you are sharing the lab with the rest of the school.

2. Tap into your computer teacher’s resources 

Some schools have a separate elective or specials time set aside for teaching typing skills and other Microsoft programs like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. See if you can have your students work on a project you’d assigned with during the computer class. Not only will this save precious class time working on the project, but also help with any “tech issues” the kids may have with the project since the computer teach will be there. You can also let the computer teacher know up front about some of the tech projects that you plan on working on and teaching this year. They just might give you pointers or even find a way to work it into their plans.

3. Empower students to troubleshoot 

Not only is it important for you to help guide your students through a tech-based project, but it is equally important  to teach all the ins and outs of the tech itself. Go over all the steps of using the tool first (create a PowerPoint or Prezi) without the tech in front of the kids (otherwise they will not be giving you their full attention).  Make a handout that students can reference later if they get stuck. Post those same instructions to your blog so that parents and students can see/reference it if the handout gets “lost.”

4. Incorporate tech into existing lessons, rather than create from scratch

Don’t try and create new, amazing lessons (unless you want to)…use the lessons and projects you already have, but integrate them with technology.  Instead of students writing their final draft by hand, have them type it up!  Let your students use programs like Photostory, Vimeo, Blabberize, Animoto, or iMovie to create an amazing _______ (you fill this in).  You can do this gradually at your own pace–don’t ever think that you have to load yourself down.  The simplest way to integrate tech is to start small and start with lessons you already have.



Examples of projects you may already be doing that could have tech integrated:

  • A book trailer (versus a book report)
  •  Rap or song about the planets in our solar system
  • Vacation Commercials to hotels on other planets
  • Element Facts using “Blabberize”
  • All about me “Animoto’s”
  • Field Trip Trailers (showing off what we learned on our field trips)

Here are some other common uses of tech integration that I have experienced and seen:

  • Use Grade Cam to easily grade a quiz for instant feedback
  • Use Socrative to create a paperless, self-grading quiz or exit slip
  • Use Google Drive to Collaborate with co-workers on lesson plans, scope and sequences, or PBLs
  • Use Google Drive to take attendance or as a collaborative calendar
  • Use Google Drive to take a class survey or parent survey
  • Use your current lessons and incorporate QR Codes within them (another QR Code resource)
  • Skype with an guest speaker (children’s author, astronaut, geologist, etc.)
  • Use Class Dojo to manage your classroom
  • More Ideas for using Google Drive  and Google Forums in the Classroom

5. Utilize ALL the tech in your classroom

Has that iPad been sitting at your desk instead of in your hands or a student’s hand? Use that iPad or extra computer in the room as a station when doing rotations. Use the iPad to manage your classroom or use Air Server to connect to your PC and mirror wirelessly.  Want to remote control your PC with your iPad? It is possible!  Use Skype to bring in a guest speaker related to a topic you are currently teaching.

6. Set clear expectations for caring for technology

When you have limited technology in the classroom, it’s even more important to make sure kids take care of it. Whether it’s a computer or device (iPad, video camera, digital camera, etc.) in your classroom, you have to let kids know how to handle it. Let them know what to do and what happens when something gets broken. Show your students what a privilege it is to have the technology in the classroom.

7. Let parents know when students need to use tech at home

If and when you plan on assigning a project for students that require a computer, you need to be sure to inform their parents. At the beginning of each school year, I send home a parent survey, and one of the questions is, “Do you have a computer at home? If so, is your child able to use it for homework?” If there is no computer at home, or the computer needs to be used by the parent for work purposes, then the public library is always a good option. I’ve also let parents know that their child can stay after school or come a little early to work on the computer if needed. If you set a deadline for a tech-integrated project and parents are well informed of all the deadlines, then be sure follow through as if it were any other assignment in your classroom.

8. Get more technology by involving the community

It’s always nice when a donation comes just in the nick of time! Ask parents and other community members to donate some old/used iPhones, iPads, iPods, ear buds, or microphones for your classroom. Check to see if local businesses are getting rid of some of their old computers and upgrading to new ones. Maybe they could donate some of the old ones to the school or you classroom? Is there a way to specifically raise funds for technology at your school? Find out! If not, talk to your principal and see what you can do. If you work in a public or charter school consider signing-up at Donors Choose and see if you can get a little more tech for your classroom!


8 tips for making the most of limited tech in the classroom

My favorite classroom tech tools

TECH THAT COSTS $$
*Prezi ($$ for student accounts)
*Animoto ($$ for student accounts)
FREE TECH
*Animoto (free, but very limited account)
*Vimeo (requires an email)
*Blabberize (requires an email)
*Prezi (free for teachers only)
*Voki (free for teachers only)

 

Becca the Science Girl and Other Amazing Educational ThingsIf you have any additional comments or ideas/experiences that you have had with the “little tech” in your classroom, please feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading! I hope that this post inspires you to incorporate more technology in your classrooms. You can find my TpT Store (Science Girl Lessons) here.
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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jan December 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm

My problem is not so much ideas about what to do with tech resources, but more how to get tech to work as it should. We don’t have anyone to help, no computer room or computer teacher. this year’s parents don’t seem to be able to help, though they have in the past. I have an old Mac laptop that plays videos through a doc cam and projector system, but the new one doesn’t, and is locked against changes. I have 3 net books that don’t connect to the Internet. I have my own iPads (2) that I use for rewards for kids on contract and to record fluency tests. They connect to the Internet, but they don’t belong to the school. I have an apple tv that doesn’t work because I don’t have the adapter for the Mac computer, and the computer that could use the Apple tv doesn’t mirror and is locked from changes. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be a way to hook it up with the doc cam system. Sometime the problems we have aren’t just that there isn’t much available, it’s getting it to work.

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2 Angela Watson December 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

I’ll let Rebecca chime in with her experiences, but Jan, I can definitely relate to what you shared!

I’ve written a little bit about the mindset shift we have to make when technology fails us, and about how to integrate technology when nothing works right. Maybe you’ll get some ideas there?

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3 Jan December 9, 2015 at 12:45 am

Very nice articles. I’ve tried some of what you suggest, and for the most part can usually figure out how to do what I need to do. It’s my first year teaching first grade (13th year of teaching) and I may have more time to figure things out once I learn the rhythm of the 1st grade year and what exactly 6 year olds can do. It’s nice of the school to give us any tech at all; just wish we could have someone who knows how help us link it all together. For this year I’m focusing on other things, maybe I can get to the tech later.

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4 Angela Watson December 9, 2015 at 11:53 am

That’s a smart approach–you can’t master everything at once! I wonder if you could find an online mentor to help, if there’s no one in your school.

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5 Jan December 10, 2015 at 12:29 am

Thanks for the idea; I’ll look into it. My kids could probably help if I could get them into the school during a vacation. That’s an idea!

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6 Rebecca Valera December 9, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Hey Jan,
I would definitely spend a majority of your time mastering the ends and outs of 1st grade and what your students are capable of. I’m not sure exactly what kind of limited tech you have in your classroom, but I do know (from seeing it first hand at the magnet school I taught at) that first graders can use a computer and an ipad. If you would like some suggestions for that age group and can let me know what kind of tech you have, I’d be happy to give you some.

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7 Lisa January 2, 2016 at 12:08 am

Hi Jan,
I feel your pain. You mentioned your new mac was locked against changes. Can you contact the persons responsible for keeping the computers running and ask them to unlock it long enough to tweak it? Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease just a thought

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8 Anne-Marie December 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I love your suggestion #3 — what a great way to cut down on frustration and encourage problem solving.

One of the easiest ways I’ve seen to integrate tech into the classroom is for kids with learning disabilities. Google docs has been a lifesaver for students with ADHD, since it’s much harder to lose assignments. A few other favorites are Noteability — for organized note taking; Ginger — for advanced spell check for students with dyslexia; and Mac accessibility features. Students love using text-to-speech to edit their own writing.

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