Hey, how’s your year starting? You have probably been delving into your own professional development, reading and research in preparation to be an even MORE awesome educator this school year. Part of being a well-equipped educator is knowing both how and when to use a variety of tools and resources to lead our students in becoming better learners. Today, these tools are often electronic, which can add more complexity and stress if you are not used to using them on a regular basis.
Just like every book has a cover and every pair of scissors has a blade, every device in your classroom setup has an intentional design that serves a specific purpose. The key is to be able to define this purpose. This comes from understanding the features/benefits of the tool’s design and knowing how to manipulate these features to have full control over its integration in your classroom setup and, ultimately, in your teaching. Let’s think about a few ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for OWNING these technology tools in our classroom.
Why is This Thing in the Room?
Have you ever used another teacher’s classroom and were completely thrown off by the technology setup? “What is this rando cable hanging off of the desk and taped to the floor?” “Are there seriously three remotes?” What follows is this flowchart: Is the other teacher around? If so, can I ask them what the heck is up with their setup? Shoot, they are gone today. What is the phone number for the Tech Department again? Will they even pick up? Slowly crumple into a ball of stress.
Let’s take a big step back. Before you even walk into the other classroom, what are your GOALS for teaching that day? Will you need to show a slideshow of a student’s service learning trip (yes), play an audio clip of Michelle Obama’s speech (most likely), have students collaborate using Google Documents on their iPads (yup)? Good. Now that you have a better picture of what you and your students will most likely need to succeed during that class period let’s nail down the types of devices required, as well as the features we will need to use to provide the greatest benefit in learning.
Here are the most common categories of tools used in today’s classroom, including a few features:
Projector, TV, interactive whiteboard
Power button, power cable, video inputs, remote, settings menu
Wall speakers, portable speakers, TV audio, built-in computer speakers
Audio cable connection, volume control, power cable
Tablet, Laptop, Chromebook, MP3 player
Power/syncing cable, OS software, microphone, speakers, apps, settings
Access Point (Router), ethernet cable, SSID (network name), settings
Let’s step forward again into the other teacher’s classroom setup. What type of display device is provided, and where is it in the room? Great, you found the TV. Now, where is the content stored that is being displayed? A Shared Photo folder on your laptop? Cool. How will the laptop be connected to the TV? Nice! That HDMI cable was almost hidden from view under the pile of papers on the desk. Is the TV powered on? If not, where is the remote? (etc., etc.)
Do you see how our line of thinking changed from major freakout stress ball mode to a more soothing, “I’m going to ask myself some essential tech setup questions” voice?
Draw Your Setup
It can be challenging to truly understand your tech setup without a visual illustration. Imagine if you were in the situation above. A basic illustration (from the teacher that normally uses that classroom) outlining the main tech tools, how they are connected (with labels), and where they physically are in the room could have helped, right?
This concept can also be useful when needing a stronger grasp of your OWN classroom setup as well. Learn what is in your room, why it is there, how things are connected (types of cables) and what features are available with that tool to enhance student learning. Then, DRAW IT.
Own Your Tech
We have looked at the technology in a classroom setup that may initially seem foreign and uncomfortable. Your goal is to make that “weird” setup your own (in your own classroom) by mastering its flow, knowing all its intricacies and practicing being in the driver’s seat when it comes to troubleshooting.
In preparing for this school year, what gaps do you have in the understanding of your tech setup (or a co-teacher’s)? What goals do you have for maybe mixing it up and trying something new? What resources do you have for finding out more information about a device/component, or learning how to troubleshoot more efficiently?
A great way to pull this all together for yourself in a nice little easy-to-reach package is by creating a digital Technology Resource Guide. It can include all of the information discussed in this blog post, plus whatever else you want to include! Here is an example of what this could look like.
Have a great start to the school year, and be the inspiration you want to see in the world.
Emily has been teaching and supporting Apple technology for almost eight years and has extensive experience supporting technology in the K-8 setting as a Technology Support Specialist at Hillbrook School (Los Gatos, CA). For several years, Emily was an Apple OnetoOne/Joint Venture trainer as well as a corporate A/V technician. She is passionate about leveraging relevant technology in the classroom and strives to support this at the highest level possible. Previous presentation engagements include the CUE 2015 Fall Conference, USF Research and Pedagogy Symposium (RaPS) 2014, the DML Conference in 2012 and ISTE 2016. Topics addressed were “Own Your Tech!” (hands-on workshop), the app resource website tapanapp.org that she designed, as well as creating engaging presentations with Keynote for iPad.
Follow Emily on Twitter (@eh48) and read more about her technology escapades on her blog (tech4word.blogspot.com).