When portable technology was just popping onto the scene, my colleague and I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give the new laptop carts a try. Depending on which cart was being used, the password was either wifia or wifib. When I walked next door to see how things were going with her setup, she asked me to check the cart for which password to write on the board. I took a look and told her to write wifib, which I pronounced, whiffee-b. We both commented on what an odd choice that was for a password and continued to say whiffee for longer than I care to mention. We get a good chuckle out of that now, and while I'm still no tech expert, integrating technology has become a much smoother and more properly pronounced process.
Our classrooms have had a major facelift in the twenty-first century, and technology is at the forefront of this new look. From teacher webpages and online gradebooks to the bevy of technological resources that cater to education, our ability to communicate with families and engage students has skyrocketed. Parents love up-to-date access, and what kid doesn't love apps and gadgetry? Ensuring that everyone's in the loop and determining the best technological aspects for your comfort level and curricular needs will contribute to the success of a Twenty-First Century classroom. Once everyone's on board and technology is infused into the curriculum, the new face of education can shine!
Selecting the best technology to enhance your instruction is the first step. There are so many choices, and sorting through them all can be pretty overwhelming. Free Technology for Teachers1 offers some amazing ideas, explanations, and resources, and the best part is the free aspect! As teachers, we're all familiar with the idea of having to beg, borrow, or steal (but not literally!) to get what we need for our classrooms. Whether we're begging for grant money or a generous donation from administration or our local PTA, borrowing from another teacher or building, or stealing (although I've been known to forget to return...), part of teaching is being savvy enough to obtain the best resources possible for our students. Even a single smartphone can open up an array of possibilities with these great app ideas from Edutopia2, like downloading an app to randomly call on students or one to help find a book at their reading level. Technology is a great resource to sprinkle in here and there, but finding a healthy balance is always best. Don't lose educational focus by trying to dazzle with too much tech!
When you've selected the best tech resources for the job, don't forget to keep those not sitting in your classroom in the loop. With the smattering of negative press involving social media, many parents are rightfully concerned about how technology is impacting their children. Hearing that their child is accessing Edmodo to "chat" and read posts can initially throw up some red flags, especially in the younger grades. As teachers, we need to make sure parents understand the tech resources we're using in the classroom and that online safety is at the forefront of our planning and choices. Sharing information about our tech plans for students at a curriculum night or during conferences is a great idea. Sending home a flyer that gives an overview of some of the top sites we plan to use with students would also be helpful. Offering ways for families to become engaged in their child's learning via the digital world is a great way to help calm those fears too. Some ideas presented by Edutopia for Digital Citizenship Day3 to help families explore educational websites or write ebooks would work all year long. An informed and involved parent is a happy one!
Make sure you take the time to tackle technology. Informing families and engaging students with technological resources to enhance your curriculum are the keys to success. What’s your favorite tech tool or app to use with students? How do you keep families in the loop? Share your challenges and successes in the comment section, and together we’ll conquer whiffee in a jiffy!
Additional Resources & Works Cited
1. Free Technology for Teachers
2. Edutopia Teacher Apps
3. Digital Citizenship Day