Technology isn’t automatically valuable for teachers. Tech tools, ranging from student community platforms to online reading logs, become integral to classroom instruction when you create a culture around effective and educational use of technology with your students.
This requires you and your students to consistently evaluate and adapt while being purposeful with the tools you choose and the lessons you pair them with.
Here are three different ways to ensure that you’re cultivating an effective EdTech culture in your classroom—one that promotes both education and fun learning opportunities for your students.
1. Be Clear With Rules
While technology can be fun for students, classroom tools shouldn’t be used for communicating with peers the same way Facebook or Instagram is—the focus should always be on education.
Avoid this potential pitfall by hosting a class brainstorming session, where students help create the technology rules. This process will give them a sense of ownership and empower them to follow the rules that they created, as well as encourage peers who aren’t following the rules, to do the same. Some basic rules to include are:
• Use appropriate language with your peers
• Use articles and resources to back-up discussion responses
• Remember: This is our online classroom community, not Facebook
Write these rules on a large poster board and hang them in the class. You can also add them to your classroom blog or any other online community where notes can be left.
2. Poll Students Often
While a tool may pass your initial inspection, it’s important to know what your students think of it. If they love the tool, they’ll want to use it more. When polling students about the tools they’re using, be sure to ask at least three basic questions:
• What is your favorite/least favorite feature of the tool?
• What is one thing you learned while using it?
• Did you like (insert specific feature that you thought would be valuable)? Why or why not?
Not only does this tell you how your students feel about the tool, it gives you a better sense of how they’re using it, while requiring them to think critically about something they consider a “game.” This creates an effective EdTech culture, where students are as critical of the tools they’re using as you are.
3. Assess Frequently (And Share Data With Students!)
EdTech tools make it easy for teachers to gather data about their students’ progress in nearly any subject. You can use this data to determine which tools are most educational and effective for you and your students.
For example, Accelerated Reader asks students to answer questions in multiple-choice format. While this tool is educational in that it’s holding students accountable for their reading, a similar tool, Whooo’s Reading, prompts students to answer open-ended questions, which requires a higher level of thinking. In this case, both products are valuable, but that one feature may make the latter platform better for your students.
To continue cultivating an effective EdTech culture, share the results of your data with students. Not only is it exciting for them to see how they’ve improved, but it also emphasizes on the educational value of these games and tools. Enhance this data sharing with offline resources that call students out for their great work, like:
• Reading certificates
• Award for highest overall test score
• Special incentive for using the tool x days in a row
Technology in the classroom is only as valuable as you make it. This means you should always be focused on purposeful use of tools, assessing progress, and getting feedback from students to determine what’s effective and what isn’t. Follow these three basic rules and both you and your students will reap the benefits.
Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.