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Six tips for integrating tech in the classroom
Tue, 20th Jun 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Bringing tech into the classroom is no mean feat. With so many different options vying for educators' attention, it's understandable to be snowed under by the thought of upping your digital offering.

Microsoft recently worked with innovative US educator Eileen Heller to explore the potential of tech and how to bring it to class efficiently. The idea is for tools to seamlessly fit into lessons and add value, not to take away from the essentials of traditional learning.

Heller is the Instructional Technology Trainer and Elementary Innovation Facilitator for Omaha Public Schools.

Working with students and engaging technology, Heller analysed the results and says she has come up with Six key tips for educators wanting to do the same.

“The students were asked to share their favourite character and to include a gif, emoji, or customisable sticker to represent it.

“The result was a completely engaged class, immediate feedback from peers, and the ability for the teacher to reinforce digital citizenship skills along the way.

1. Listen and learn from your students

We don't do this enough. Every book, blog, or article of research I read keeps going back to building relationships and culture in your classroom to ensure success. This includes technology integration. Start talking, ask questions and, most importantly, listen and adjust. How are your students communicating and sharing ideas with friends and family? Replicate that in some fashion in the classroom for them to communicate their learning and collaborate with their peers.

2. Shift to a student-centered environment

Stand back and release control. There are a variety of student-centered pedagogies to explore such as inquiry, project and/or problem-based learning, design thinking, and culturally responsive teaching. The end goal is to give students ownership into their learning.

For instance, use creative discovery time when introducing a new tool. Instead of giving step-by-step instructions, let students discover and interact with one another. Imagine a class of students starting on Minecraft: Education Edition for the first time. Do you really need to be the expert, or can your students play that role?

3. Fall in love with the right tools

I remember the first time I saw OneNote at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in 2014. I immediately fell in love with how OneNote makes it easy to organise things in sections and pages. Be selective about the technology you use and learn how other teachers are using that tool – then adjust and replicate. Find your favourite tools that empower you and your students.

4. Emsbrace instructional design

This is the core of all technology integration. No technology in isolation will move student achievement or increase test scores. It comes down to the teacher and how they design the lesson to use that technology as a tool towards learning.

When I work with a teacher on designing any learning activity, we start by collecting our ‘guiding resources.' This includes our district pacing guides that lay out the curriculum with the standards and Best Instructional Practices Handbook.

5. Reflect and revise

The most powerful learning comes from reflection. This needs to be done not only by the student, but also the teacher, via dialogue, writing, or video. Reflect on the learning activities you provided and the technology you integrated to determine if it enhanced or hindered the learning experience.

It won't always be a success, but the value comes in recognising and adjusting. This goes back to listening to your students. Ask questions, check for evidence of learning and add your own insight to reiteration of your learning activity.

6. Showcase and share

Use technology to share student learning and your own lesson design with an authentic audience. Social media is not only one of the best ways to learn from others, but also a great way to showcase and share for the benefit of others. Don't worry about being perfect. Students need to see that you will revise constantly – and that they should too.

One of my favourite ways to reflect on my own learning is through blogging. This can also be an avenue for your students. Be sure to allow the students to choose how they will showcase and share, whether it's visual presentation, song, written piece, or any other creative approach. I love when my teachers connect with another class locally  (or globally) to share their learning via Skype in the Classroom.

Article content by Microsoft Education and Eileen Heller