Quick Logistical Tips for Getting Started with Technology in the Classroom
A while back my DonorsChoose technology project was funded by generous parents, friends, family, and other do-gooders. I was thrilled. My students and I were about to receive five new shiny iPads and four brand new Chromebooks. I started planning all of the amazing, innovating ideas I could finally implement with this new technology. When the boxes finally arrived, however, I suddenly felt my stomach flip. I had nine devices to now worry about.
Where should I start? Which apps should I download first? How long will setup take? Where was I going to store everything?
To implement any of this cool, innovative stuff, I had a lot of logistics to work out first. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way to help you get started with any device in your classroom!
1. Commit to using technology with your students in some form every day.
This is a must! It doesn't matter what devices you have, whether it's a single laptop and a projector or a class set of tablets, it's more important to just get going. Start with technology you feel most comfortable with and then work your way up to slowly incorporating and experimenting with more frequent use. Good news - if you're reading this post, you're already on track!
2. Take inventory and determine what’s usable.
If it’s broken, it’s time to let it go. I had two Macs I inherited from a previous teacher sitting in my classroom for years. I felt guilty about getting rid of them initially, but finally accepted that my students couldn't use them successfully because of technical issues. I confirmed their state with our computer teacher before tossing them just to be on the safe side. Getting rid of the old Macs cleared up so much space in my room for more collaboration and newer technology.
So be honest with yourself. Do you have ancient or unfixable devices in your classroom collecting dust? If so, a little spring cleaning might be in order.
3. Setup devices.
Whether you have one device or many, make sure they’re set up and have the necessary software downloaded. I made the mistake of trying to do it all myself. Setting up ten or even two iPads is no fun and really time consuming. Take advantage of your parents, students, family, friends, or anyone that is willing to help you. If you’re lucky enough, you have a great computer teacher or IT staff that can provide support, too.
During setup, determine how you want your software to be organized so students can easily access it. For instance, on a tablet, you can group apps in folders by subject (science, math, etc). However you decide to organize the software, it should be straightforward for your students to navigate through.
5. Make space!
Determine an area in your classroom to charge and store your technology. For example, I've seen some teachers have special charging stations easily accessible to students if they need to quickly power up. Some teachers are fine with leaving them there overnight while others have designated cabinets to lock up the devices after students leave. (Personally, I prefer the latter!)
You can even assign students to be IT experts as a classroom job to help charge or put away devices at the end of the day.
6. Setup passwords.
Decide if you want your devices to be password protected. To make it simple, you could have a shared classroom password for each device. When working with young students, I've found this to be the easiest strategy. After logging into the device, students can then login with their own accounts onto different apps for a more individualized approach. The choice is yours of course. In fact, you may decide not to use any passwords at all. It's more important to determine what will work best for you and your students.
7. Label it!
Labeling everything will help to keep track of your devices and stay organized. Don't forget to label your chargers, too! For instance, you can label your devices and chargers with colored stickers. Without labels, it can get pretty messy very quickly as kids will just start grabbing available chargers. Any labeling system will do so go with one that is simple and accessible for you and your students.
8. Stick to it!
It's important to use technology consistently with your class and hold yourself accountable. The greater effort you make, the faster you'll build confidence. Once you have a routine down, you'll feel confident about breaking out of your comfort zone and exploring different ways you can innovate via technology.
It's the age of innovation and the use of technology in classrooms is becoming more and more widespread all over the world. I've discovered that teachers everywhere have anxiety about how to get started, especially when technology is constantly transforming. While getting started with new technology in your classroom can feel extremely overwhelming at first, it doesn't have to be! If you start by establishing an organized and solid foundation, it will be easier to add additional devices or software when you're ready for more.