Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Be Proactive! Teach Your Students How To Problem Solve Technology Issues.

Create Independence 

One of the biggest roadblocks with using technology with students are the technology problems you encounter. Dealing with technology problems can be what the teacher spends time doing instead of working with students on academics. It can also be what deters people from using technology in the division one classroom. 

One way to help mitigate this issue is to teach students how to problem solve technology issues. It also helps teach them an important life skill - confidence with how to troubleshoot technology problems. 


Like much of my teaching, many of these ideas are ones I learned from other educators and adapted for my own use. 

Whole Class Instruction 

Turn It Off And On Again

Sometimes when a piece of technology is not working the fastest and most effective way to problem solve is to turn it off and then on again. This used to be a hassle with desktop computers and laptops, however if you are using a Chromebook, it does not take that long. If you are using a device that has a variety of browsers, sometimes changing what browser you are using will help. Simply closing the browser and opening it again can also help. These are simple steps students should learn to do independently.

Two Before Me/Three Before Me 

When I am doing a whole class activity, I teach my students early in the year to ask others for help before me. I teach them they need to ask two people before asking me for help. I shorten it to "Two Before Me" when reminding students of the expectation. I have also seen "Three Before Me" for those who like rhyming rules. 

Encouraging students to seek peer assistance is useful for many reasons. It helps eliminate dealing with small issues that often result from students not attending to instructions. "What page are we on?", "What do I do next?", "How do I get to that website?". I use it throughout the day, but it is especially helpful when technology is used.  It also helps to create an environment of  collaboration and that "we are all in this together".

Hands Off The Keyboard!

The danger of having students getting help from their peers is often their peers DO instead of help. While this might help solve the issue at hand, it often does not assist the student who needed help in developing independence. So I inform students that when they are helping someone, only the person who is getting help can use the Chromebook. "You can help but you can't do it for them".  


Often you will have a few students who are your technology experts in class. Why not explicitly identify them? When we are doing a technology task, especially if it is new, I will ask if any students feel they are able to help others. Who are the experts? I put the word "experts" on the board and have students sign up underneath. Students who are experts have to be willing to help others and be interrupted. I leave the list "open" and students who feel they understand enough to be an expert as the activity progresses can add their name. 

Sometimes I will pull a small group aside and train experts for activities that students will not have had experience with. I have seen some classrooms where these experts are permanently posted. 


As a division one teacher, I use centres a lot. Anyone who has used centres knows that in order for them to be effective, students need to be independent. Using technology can enhance and complicate centres. The more variety of technology in your class, the more challenging this becomes. But not impossible.

Posters and Explicit Instructions 

I teach my students that when I am working with a group at centre time, I am not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency (the 3 Bs: bathroom, bleeding, barfing). A technology problem is not an emergency. So when I introduce a new centre, in addition to teaching the centre, I create a poster to remind students of the expectations for the centre. It also includes problem solving steps if the centre involves technology. If it is just one person's technology that is not working? Well, they could share with someone else. If no one's technology is working then they can read a book, use whiteboards to practice spelling and so on, depending on the main intent of the centre. It's a good idea to review the poster (expectations/problem solving) over the course of the year. 


As mentioned above, I tell students that if their computers/tablet/whatever will not work, that they should share with someone else. This was difficult to do when headphones are used. Students can share a device without headphones, but then the sound is distracting to others. So I had an "a ha" moment when I was shopping one day. Splitters. They are inexpensive and make sharing easier. They work with computers and tablets.

Your Tips and Tricks?

Please leave your tips and tricks in the comments. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I Co-Taught... With Myself!

A Little Bit Of Background

A few years ago I started making short math videos and uploading them to YouTube. The point of these were three-fold. First of all, I used them as sets to my lessons. I was able to use school manipulatives, and Alberta curriculum terms to tailor the video to my students' needs. Second of all, by having the sets as a video, I was able to provide students with opportunities to review the material if they wanted or needed to. Finally, I was able to share these videos with parents to help them better understand what math looks like in the grade two classroom of today.

Then last year I was in need of more differentiation in my literacy centres (long story, see this post) so I started creating making words videos. This year I decided to introduce this centre earlier in the year. As a result, I created a new video that would be the model for the centre. I like to teach whole class lessons and do whole class practising of centres to build independence when possible.

The Ah-Ha Moment

The majority of my teacher made videos have been short or made for students to use independently. This was the first time that I had a longer instructional video playing for a whole class activity. The video was a recording of what I would normally be modelling on the Smartboard for the Making Words lesson. This freed me up to walk around, observe, intervene and praise more frequently and effectively than if I had been doing the lesson "live". I basically was co-teaching, with myself. It was great and I believe it could be a very powerful strategy if used thoughfully. 

Now I just need to find some time to make more videos!