Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Would If I Could But I Don't Have The Time So I Won't


The Question I Can’t Answer

In my role as lead technology teacher, I deal with a lot of potentially frustrating things. I need to keep up on the ever evolving world of technology. I need to find ways to provide useful professional development to a staff of varying technological interests, abilities and divisions. I have to deal with weird computer, netbook and Smartboard problems throughout the school. I have to help facilitate reasonable response times for weird computer, netbooks and Smartboard problems. Most days these are interesting challenges; sometimes they are frustrating. For the most part they are all solvable... eventually. The one thing that has left me stumped is how to respond to a colleague who tells me they would love to use technology in the class but they simply don’t know how to find the time.

The problem is they are correct. Using technology effectively, takes time. It takes time for teachers to learn and plan. It also takes time for the students to learn, which means it takes up precious class time. Any attempt to rush teaching technology or integrating technology leads to frustration and generally leads to people not wanting to try “that again”. I touch on this a bit in my previous blog post Direct Teaching of Technology Skills and Vocabulary.

Snowballs!

What concerns me about not being able to provide a good answer to those who do not feel they have the time to integrate technology is that the problem snowballs for the next year’s teacher. So, if the grade one teacher does not have the students use technology, it means more work for the grade two teacher. So now something that already is potentially time consuming becomes even more so.

The Answer?

I do not have one yet. I have some ideas and some suggestions. I am also hoping to generate some comments as to what the readers of this blog think.

Small Chunks of Time Exist!

Often, when planning to integrate technology, teachers think big. They think about projects or research. I think students need a lot of experience logging onto computers so that skills becomes as automatic as tying shoes become. Providing students with an opportunity to read online during DEAR time (I bet no one calls it USSR any more!) is one way to accomplish this without giving up a lot of time. Yes, the first few times will probably not involve a lot of reading. However, my experience is that reading online is motivating enough for students to give them the incentive to persevere through the initial frustrations of learning how to log in. Believe me I am not dismissing the importance of providing students with independent reading time!

Here are some other small chunks of time I think technology can be snuck in:
  • Math facts drills.If your class does math facts drills, try doing these online!
  • Spelling practice.
    Have your students practice their words once a week using something like
    SpellingCity.
    Students can type their spelling words in Word and print to take home.
  • Using Unitedstreaming videos (EPSB teachers).
    Teach your students how to log into Discovery Education using SchoolZone. Instead of playing a video you want to show them on the Smartboard, have them view it on a laptop!
  • Buddies.
    If your class does buddy activities, this is a great time to encourage technology use. They could read online or do math activities online.
  • Geography in social studies.
    Have students use
    Google Earth to explore a topic in social studies. You could have students work in small groups of 2 or 3 using a computer or laptop. Read the great post Google Earth in grade one for more ideas.

Start Small and Start Early

One of my colleagues had a personal realization the other day. It was early May and they were discussing one major computer project they do each year. She looked at me and said, “we really need to start this earlier next year.”

Technology Clubs

One strategy I have used in my school is to run technology clubs to help develop the technological expertise in our student population. This leaves the teacher feeling supported in the classroom when using technology. Each month, two students come from each class to learn how to problem solve different technology problems (laptops, Smartboards, netbooks, etc).

A Critical Outcomes School Scope and Sequence

At my school we have started the process of developing a critical learnings scope and sequence for ICT outcomes. As a part of this process, staff have identified one or two skills they expect or hope that students from the previous grade will have.

A Disclaimer!

The above activities and suggestions are not about how to integrate technology effectively in your classroom. They are suggestions to get started with technology in your classroom and to allow your students to develop some automaticity with basic computer skills which will free up time when you are ready for that integrated technology project!