Make sure it works!
For those of you with a little corner of your brain that goes nuts at the many possibilities of things that could go wrong with using educational technology, I have some suggestions for you. Before you are getting ready to use technology, ensure that it works by doing the following things:
- try the activity yourself, so that you know all necessary steps
- test the website on the computers the students will be using
- make sure batteries are charged, if necessary
- make sure all critical elements are plugged in and displaying/producing sound correctly
- know who is available to call for help in a pinch
- have a related back-up plan (more on this later)
- have an educational task ready for those who finish early (www.freerice.com is an excellent option for this circumstance)
If you need to borrow someone who knows more than you to help make sure everything is working in advance, do it. Definitely do this when students are not there. This way, you can focus on teaching when the time comes. Also, make sure that YOU set everything up, even if someone else comes in to advise you on how to do it. This will give you a much better idea of what to do if things go wrong.
That said, no matter how much you've tested things out, things happen.
Do Not Give Up
Should something malfunction, do NOT give up immediately because there is a class of students staring at you. In doing this, you teach them to give up. If waiting a few minutes means they get to use technology, they will be VERY patient (if not quiet). Give the students a content-related topic to talk about/work on, and then take a few minutes to try to troubleshoot the problem. If this doesn't work, ask a student to try to get things to work. Students tend to have much more perseverance than adults. While they do this, go on with the rest of the content of the lesson. Most of the time, one of these options should eliminate the problem.
Back Up Plan
On the off-chance that you've tried to fix it, a student has tried to fix it, and you've called a co-worker and he/she can't help you, then chalk it up as a loss, and move on. These are the cases where your back-up plan is critical. Your back-up plan should be one of two things: either a different technology-based way of accessing the same content (i.e., a different website, an interactive whiteboard lesson/game, a video clip, etc.) OR a non-technology based way of addressing the content (i.e., textbook, game, discussion, writing, etc.) In having such a back-up plan, you ensure that kids will learn the desired content, no matter what the circumstance. A benefit to having a non-technology-based method is you have a way of teaching the same content to kids who don't focus while using technology.
Lastly, just because technology may have bitten you at one point, DO NOT GIVE UP. Even if you had to bail on your last attempt, TRY AGAIN, even if its with a different website, etc. Once you have a successful experience, you'll understand why technology is such a powerful medium for educating children. And remember: there is always a learning curve when doing something new, but it will diminish with time and practice, and it will be worth it!