Easy Ways To Use Technology
Elementary & Secondary Grade Levels
Quiet a Noisy Classroom
To make it easier to give lessons and presentations, use a tool that tracks and displays classroom noise.
For example, Too Noisy is an accurate noise meter. You’ll likely find that — without having to tell them — students will become quiet when the meter spikes.
This means most of them won’t be as disruptive when you give a lesson or run an independent work activity. They may even shush each other.
In turn, you’ll have an easier time presenting content.
Use Videos for Mini-Lessons
You can bolster your lesson plans by using videos as stand-alone overviews for some topics.
Also available as skill reviews and previews, there are many websites that host teacher-made video content. TeacherTube is an example of an education-only version of YouTube, covering core school subjects.
You can search for a specific topic or browse by category, quickly finding relevant videos. For example, searching for “middle school algebra” will load a results page containing study guides, specific lessons and exam reviews.
This easy way to use technology in the classroom adds a multimedia element to your lessons, which can effectively resonate with visual learners.
Research has shown that the use of animated videos can positively impact a child’s development in several competency areas including memory, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
Playing relevant podcasts can not only supplement your lessons, but engage auditory learners and act as a learning station.
Made by groups ranging from media giants to ordinary people passionate about a particular subject, you can find podcasts that are:
- Interviews with the author of a book your students are reading
- Lessons about studying techniques and strategies
- Explorations of a curriculum-related topic
- Lectures from professors
For a high school course, you may want to design a project that allows students to create and play their own podcasts.
This is one of the easiest ways to use technology in your classroom — you just need a device with strong speakers.
Add Multimedia Elements to Presentations
Whereas slideshow presentations entirely made up of text can disengage students, ones with multimedia elements can effectively hold their attention by varying content delivery.
When applicable, try to include:
- Podcast clips
- Sound effects
- Short video lessons
- News, movie and television show clips
You don’t have to scour the Internet to find relevant graphs and pictographs — you can make them yourself. There are free online tools that take you through steps to input data, adjust labels and modify your design.
It’s likely that slideshow presentations already play a part in your lessons, and adding different kinds of media can make them more engaging.
Send Adaptive Content
If each of your students has a smartphone and is always on it, why not use the situation to your advantage by delivering content through the phones?
There are adaptive learning programs that students can access through tablets and smartphones.
For example, ClassK12 offers grammar lessons up to 6th grade Common Core standards. It’s made up of mobile apps that students can download onto their personal devices. As a teacher, you can create virtual classrooms, deliver assignments and run reports.
Delivering appropriate content through such programs may seem difficult, but the process is usually intuitive and automated.
Share an Online Class Calendar
To keep students informed regarding the content they’ll be tackling, create and share a class calendar that details lessons and highlights important dates.
You can use a program such as Google Calendar, emailing your calendar’s hyperlink to your students or their parents.
This not only keeps them informed, but helps you stay organized — you’ll quickly see if you’ve set too many due dates in a short period.
And by keeping students in the loop, you’ll help them come prepared for each class.
Helping Students Process Content
Use Virtual Manipulatives
When teaching and reinforcing some math concepts, students can use virtual manipulatives in more ways than physical ones.
For example, a 6th-grade geometry activity from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives involves using geoboards to illustrate area, perimeter and rational concepts.
Although there are a few websites that provide these manipulatives, many teachers regard the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives as the most versatile and engaging. The website is made up of tasks targeted to students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. So, there should be something for your class.
This method of using technology in the classroom is not only easy to run, but appeals to hands-on learners.
Run Learning Stations
Learning stations are a method of both delivering a range of content and giving students different ways to process it.
With a device at each station, you can provide videos, podcasts, slideshows, and other digital media. Students can then solve challenges to build an understanding of the material.
This can involve:
- Using virtual manipulatives
- Solving relevant problems in a computer game
- Recording their thoughts about, and responses to, a podcast
- Contributing notes to a group Wiki page, which this guide explains in a later section
One of the best parts of this approach? It works for classes without one-to-one device use, as students can group together at each station.
Provide Online Activities for Students Who Complete Work Early
Similarly, you can set up stations for students to use when they complete work early, giving them engaging ways to further process content.
Set up a few devices that have videos, websites and educational games open. Take time to ensure that this material is aligned with your lesson, allowing students to delve into relevant topics.
By doing so, you’ll encourage them to wisely use every bit of class time. Even those few minutes before the bell rings.
Save Time for Exit Tickets
Saving ten minutes at the end of class for exit tickets opens the door for easy technology use.
Exit tickets can take the form of:
- Online Journal Entries — Using an online notepad, students can write a journal entry to summarize what they learned.
- Slideshow Comments — Sharing copies of slideshows from the day’s lesson, students can make comments through PowerPoint or Google Slides to review and expand on important points.
- Tweets — In 140 characters or less, students can summarize the most important point they learned in class. You can easily see what they wrote by asking them to use a class-exclusive hashtag.
Exit tickets are not only quick from a student perspective, but you should find them easy to introduce and oversee.
Use Twitter Hashtags to Take Questions
Just as you can use a class-exclusive hashtag for exit tickets, you can use it to take questions throughout the day.
By inputting the hashtag in Twitter’s search bar, you can display the feed on a screen during class or check it periodically on your device. You can choose to answer all the questions at once, or as they pop up.
Either way, you don’t want to see an empty feed. Encourage students to ask inquiry questions, as well as specific ones related to lessons, presentations, homework and more.
This use of technology can be especially beneficial for introverts, who may not be comfortable asking questions in front of the class.
Study, Review and Critique Content on Web Pages
Here’s a technology-focused spin on notetaking: Find a web page with content reflecting or related to your lessons, and get students to make notes directly on the page.
Using a program such as Bounce, you can create an interactive screenshot of any page just by inputting its URL. When students open the screenshot, they’ll see commands to create notes, feedback and other edits.
In classrooms with one-to-one device use, students can do this individually.
In classrooms without one-to-one device use, you can make it a group activity. Ask each group to make notes and feedback aimed at improving the web page’s content. Once each group is done, compare the edits to see which group improved the page the most.
Who knew writing notes could be so engaging?
Use Online Mind Maps for Class Brainstorms
A digital take on brainstorming, there are websites you can use to create clear and detailed mind maps faster than written ones.
For example, many teachers use MindMeister, as its features are designed for students and educators. Put the program on a screen that everyone can see. Work with your students to brainstorm ideas as a way to reinforce lessons or launch a problem-based learning exercise.
It should only take a few minutes to set up this kind of classroom technology.
Gather Student Feedback
To encourage student input about content-processing activities, create and distribute surveys.
In a few minutes, you can create forms and polls using applications such as:
Students can give responses through personal or classroom devices, giving you insight into the activities they prefer.
Based on the results, you may find an easy way to improve lessons. This could even involve using new technologies in the classroom.
Allowing Students to Create Products
Launch a Wiki Page for a Collaborative Assignment
Collaboration doesn’t have to take place face-to-face, as you can give group assignments focused on creating a wiki page.
There are many programs you can use to create wiki pages, which are web pages that different people can edit.
As a project, students can create one about a relevant topic. This process inherently encourages collaboration — students must contribute their own content to the page, editing and refining each other’s work.
This version of a group paper may also prove to be more engaging than its classic counterpart.
Set Up Student Blogs
Blogging can be a creative outlet for students, lending itself especially well to language arts classes and other writing-heavy subjects.
There are free templates and comprehensive privacy settings on platforms such as WordPress, which you can use to host each student’s blog.
As for the products they can create? Some popular options are:
- Short essays
- Diary entries from the perspective of a historical figure or character from a novel
Blogging takes some time to set up, but — once you’re rolling — it’s one of the easiest ways to introduce and use technology in the classroom.
Offer Open-Ended Projects
When it comes time to start a new project, give students a list of options to choose from. This way, you can appeal to their distinct learning styles and they can effectively demonstrate their knowledge.
The projects can involve:
- Designing web content
- Putting together ebooks
- Creating original artwork
- Composing musical tunes
- Crafting multimedia products
Students can use widely-accessible software to complete these projects, which you may want to provide on classroom devices.
This way, you can dedicate in-class time to project work while giving students some autonomy over how they use technology in school.
Use Online Sign-Ups
When it comes time for students to deliver presentations, using digital signup forms is an easy way to incorporate technology.
Like sharing a class calendar, send students a link to a survey. It should just contain a list of dates to choose from, so they can schedule a presentation time that works for them.
They’ll likely be happy to complete the project on their own paces.
Base Assignments on Technology-Focused Subjects
Worried that students will find it too hard to use specific technologies when creating products?
Instead, you can base assignments on subjects related to software and other technology.
For example, students can write guides explaining how to use their favorite computer programs. For a greater challenge, they can investigate and report how certain technologies have impacted history, politics or any other subject.
They may develop a new appreciation for the technologies in question.
Offering a Unique Learning Experience
Introduce a Game-Based Learning Platform
An ambitious way to use technology in the classroom, you can introduce a game-based learning platform.
Most are designed to engage students, enlivening difficult topics and subjects. Research backs up other benefits, too. For example, video games stimulate an increase in midbrain dopamine to help store and recall information, according to a 2014 article in the journal of Learning, Media and Technology.
Prodigy is one, providing math content up to the 8th-grade level that’s aligned with curricula across Canada and the United States. Teachers can create classrooms, track student progress and deliver custom questions through plans and assignments.
Geared to solo and group use, online simulation games can add context and real-world applicability to your lessons.
Most simulations deal with subjects such as business and economics, which require the player to have math skills higher than the elementary level. But it is possible to find ones that appeal to younger students.
Regardless, as simulation programs become more advanced, they grow more engaging by teaching students how to apply their knowledge in a greater range of scenarios.
And, because many of these programs work on most devices, you’ll have an easy time testing and using them.
Participate in a Webquest
Webquests encourage students to find and process information in engaging contexts, adding an interesting spin to the research process.
These free online adventures could, for example, place students in the role of a detective. To solve a specific case, they may have to collect clues — and information — related to a curriculum topic by scouring certain sources and web pages.
You can create your own adventure, but you should find web quests through some Google searches.
By the end of it, your students will be surprised by how much research they did.