I think if we're honest with ourselves, we would admit that we could have done more preparation prior to the lesson to help ease the frustrations and failures that we experience. Below are some tips that I have assembled from experiences I have learned by getting burned a few times. I hope these ideas will be helpful to you as you begin to plan "exciting and innovative technology-driven lessons."
- Read all of the fine print when signing up for or trying a new tool. Sometimes the free version limits you when you try it out on a bigger scale. For example, services that limit you to 10 users and you try it with a class of 30.
- Provide students with login info prior to logging in. Depending on the age and ability of your students, they may need this info on a login card. This greatly reduces teacher stress if you they have something for them to look at as they login. If they have multiple logins, have them all on a card for future reference.
- Try out a couple of student logins to make sure they really work. Sometimes the first activity with a new website or tool is just logging in or getting there. Students can benefit from the practice, especially the younger ones. If you have login issues, this gives you time to figure out why they are not working.
- When using online programs, create a fake student or two (if you can) to really try out a service to make sure it does what you expect. It's also good to help you know what students will experience when they start using a program. You can even login with this fake student account to demo the steps your students will take as they login.
- Start out students on paper to help them understand what they will do once they get online. I recently read about a teacher who had her students blog on large banners and other students added sticky notes to teach blogging and commenting. This teacher understood how to break down the concept of a technology skill in a way that was readily accessible to her kids. Did I just suggest starting a tech project on paper - oh yes I did!
- Start with the end in mind just as you do with any lesson planning. Decide where you want your students to go and go to the beginning and begin teaching. We know our are kids with smart with technology but sometimes they still need coaching and help getting started. After you know where you want to go, start at the beginning - Today we're logging into X, Tomorrow we're learning how to [fill in your objective] with X, Next we will begin . . . Break it down into manageable pieces and work to the end.
- Don't plan something big for your first time with a new tool or device. The first day should be devoted to logging in, logging off, and the basics of using the tool or device. It's not advisable to start with a real assessment or assignment at the beginning. In fact, I would probably give a 'fake' assessment or project a few days after they start to get familiar with a program.
- Try a program or tool on the actual student device you will be using in class. It can be tempting to just try something only on a teacher device but sometimes filtering differences, flash updates, system updates, etc. create chaos in your room. It's good to find out that a plug-in or update isn't installed before you launch into that lesson and get stuck in update city.
- Always be prepared for Plan B. In spite of all of the best preparation there are some situations you can never control. What happens if the power goes out? What if the internet goes down? What if the site you are using is overloaded when you want to use it? All of these situations are completely out of our control but are often times rare. It's good to have an idea for how you would do the work without technology, if something should happen.
- Be prepared to grow when using technology in lessons. Effectively using technology does not happen over night. For most of us it takes many lessons, a lot of trial and error, and some hard lessons learned along the way. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, we are in fact teachers. We know that as soon as we step in the classroom everyday, we have a whole new set of challenges from which we can learn and grow.
I know this sounds like a lot but I believe it's worth it to make sure your lesson flows smoothly. The best compliment I think we can be given during a lesson, is that the technology took a back seat and learning was front and center. I hope these tips will help to put technology in back and bring learning to the front! Best of luck as you teach with technology!