Back in the day, the classrooms I taught in were basically just rooms decked out with minimal equipment, consisting of little but a board to write on, some chairs and desks and a set of worn out old course books. While I acknowledge that this remains the case for many, for a lot of us classrooms ain’t like that no more. Indeed, we look back on this era as the time when we finally embraced technology in learning.
In many 21st century classrooms technology use is now commonplace and learners are engaged in a technologically rich learning environment. Nevertheless, as we enter 2013we need to make sure as much as ever that we are doing this in a considered way. While integrating emerging technologies into our classrooms is a valuable way of ensuring that learners leave our care ready to face modern-day challenges, it’s essential that we examine our practices to make sure we are doing so effectively. With this in mind, here are six practices that we should apply when integrating tech in our classes.
1. Train yourself before you enter class
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to use a particular application or piece of software. There is, however, something very wrong with not knowing how to use a tool which you are planning to employ in class. Quite simply, train yourself – and others – in emerging technologies. No matter how good something is and how well it facilitates a certain aspect of teaching, other teachers will likely be hesitant to follow your lead and use technologies if they don’t fully understand them. Experience tells me that people will simply not use tech that they don’t understand or aren’t comfortable with. If you’ve found something that really works and you want other teachers to enjoy its benefits, never overlook the necessity of getting and/or delivering training in these new technologies.
2. Be consistent
So, you find a great application and you use it once in class and everything works well and the students really love it… what’s wrong with this scenario? Why did you only use it once? If you’re going down this route, try to integrate technology of some kind into every lesson. Again, experience informs me that one of the main things that bug students more than teachers not using technology is when they use it really well and then simply abandon it as having been a one-off experiment. Nevertheless, don’t go the opposite way and rely completely on one technology type. Instead, develop your use of a portfolio of technologies regularly. This will enable you to ensure that your classroom is constantly fresh: our technology use should aim to excite and motivate your learners.
3. Follow how students use tech
So, you’ve now made yourself proficient with the tools of the trade and you’re using a nice variety of applications in class… what next? Whatever you do, don’t assume this is enough for the smooth effective use of tech in your classes. Your next step must be to monitor the learner’s grasp of not only the tool itself but also of the reasons why it is being used. Doing so will help you to determine which technologies are the most effective in facilitating your aims. Quite simply, if you discover that a few technologies are more effective than others, use these more frequently than the less effective ones, or conduct further research in why the less effective applications are doing the job you thought they would.
4. Make it an integrated part of the work
‘Today in lesson one we will be using technology. In lesson two we will start learning.’ A vital consideration is to assign technology-rich projects in which the technology is an integral part of the work. While I remain as big a fan as ever of the traditional poster-making activity, I’m a passionate believer in the tech versions of the activity, such as creating and presenting a PowerPoint slideshow and giving an in-class presentation. Tech-rich projects serve the twin purposes of being more exciting for learners, while also ensuring that as they complete their projects they become more at ease with their use of technology.
5. Make tech use egalitarian
‘Ok, guys, tomorrow in class we’ll be using this great iPad app that I’ve just discovered… what do you mean you don’t have an iPad, Hakan?’ Equipping all learners with the same digital technologies is an absolute must. If you want them to feel like a valued member of the class, you absolutely can’t exclude those who don’t have the requisite hardware.
6. Truly connect
Tech reaches the parts that traditional tools can’t, right? This being so, make the most of the opportunity to connect your learners with others from around the globe using technology. Use email, visual and chat to communicate with other language learners around the world. Your learners will be keen to find out what their peers in other countries are doing, and linking them through tech makes this previously impractical communication experience both cheap and fast.
A final note
2012 has been an epic year in my life as a teacher, and 2013 holds even more promise. Blogging became an increasingly important part of my career during the past 12 months; a trend I intend to continue. At the start of the 2012-13 academic year I investigated the TPaCK model and my search for the holy grail of considered tech use in the language classroom remains a priority as we enter 2013.
Have a lovely new year and I hope you will continue visiting my blog as we enter 2013!