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The thought of integrating technology into group projects can seem daunting, especially when you think about all there is to learn and how much could go wrong. Several years ago my school began the switch to a one-to-one environment (each student has their own technology device) and I felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant of technology. It was overwhelming and often frustrating trying to learn new technology tools. However, I persisted with much coaching and mentoring from the technology team and although I am no expert, I have learned so much and my students are grateful for the opportunities to use their technology effectively in class. Here are a few of the lessons I've learned about technology:
Use the right tool
There are endless ways to integrate technology into the learning environment and some can be powerful tools that will communicate content to students in a memorable way. But it can easily become overwhelming and in some cases technology can even prevent students from reaching the desired learning outcome. Recently, I became a Google Certified Educator and one of the tips we learned during the training was to integrate technology AROUND the learning objective. Using the right technology tool for a project is crucial to keeping students on task. If we focus too much on teaching the technology, we can distract students from actually reaching the learning objective. So, when preparing a lesson, consider the learning objective and then select a technology tool that will help students meet their goals. As students become more experienced with their technology they will be able to utilize other technology tools effectively.
Try one new thing
Technology can be intimidating because it changes so quickly. The wealth of resources available has made me feel like a deer in the headlights at times. So, when I was first making the switch to incorporate more technology into my classroom, our technology expert made this suggestion: Start with one new thing and get really comfortable with it. As you begin to master a new skill, then try adding something new to your repertoire. But don’t put the pressure on yourself to try and learn every new application or tool available. This seems like pretty simple advice, but truthfully, when I focused on one thing at a time I became more successful at implementing technology. If I get overwhelmed by the technology than I am tempted to throw in the towel and stick to my old ways. And...the truth hurts...my students deserve better than that.
Mix it up
I took a survey with my students at the end of the school year last year and discovered something interesting. The majority of my students expressed that although they enjoyed using their technology, they did not like it when teachers made them use it for the same purposes all the time. For example, many students enjoyed making group presentations on a particular topic. But if they were required to do group presentations every week, the activity really lost its charm. As we learn new technology applications we need to pass that on to our students. Most of the time if my students are doing the same kinds of activities it is because I haven't prepared enough. (Ouch! I am being very transparent here!) On another note, technology should not replace hands-on experiments and activities. My students still very much enjoy hands on projects and activities that get them out of their chairs. So mix it up! Your students will love coming to your class if they feel like there is always something different happening.
If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate technology into your classroom try my Google Classroom Interactive Slides. Each lesson includes several slides that students can interact with in a variety of ways including: written responses, graphing practice, practice problems, videos, group activities and MORE! CLICK HERE FOR A PREVIEW!