It’s your first year with classroom technology.
You just found out you are going to receive a class set of Chromebooks, iPads, or another device this school year! Maybe only half a set, but you’re excited anyway. You’ve been researching great activities to do with them, and you feel ready.
It can be tempting to just jump right in with all the exciting things you’ve thought about doing without fully preparing. I know I did. I got my first half set of Chromebooks during January a few years ago. Looking back, I should have been a bit more prepared for the first day I actually gave them to the kids.
That’s the great thing about this site. You get to avoid the mistakes that I made in the classroom. I wish someone would have put a list like this in front of me before I handed out the devices for the first time.
Most of these are somewhat common sense. But in the excitement to do something new, sometimes common sense gets pushed to the side.
So, whether you are a new teacher, just new to technology, or just looking for ideas to make your technology use this year more productive than last year, this list is for you.
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Keep your students’ passwords on a list that you can grab quickly! Maintaining a list on your computer is great, but trust me, you need a clipboard in a place that is easily accessible for those first few weeks of school. So when a student claims they forgot their password, or swear up and down that they put in the correct one, and it doesn’t work, you can grab the list and go. Keep a list on there of ALL the passwords your students use.
You can eliminate most of this problem by giving the kids a passwords sheet to record their passwords. Tell them to keep it in a place where they can access it easily. They can keep it in a folder or tape it to the inside of a notebook. It might not be a bad idea to keep it in a plastic page protector so that it won’t get destroyed. All they’ll need to do is pull it out, add the new password, and return it to the sleeve.
Send a copy of this list home!!!! Once the kids have recorded the passwords for the sites you will use most often, make a copy of the page and send it to the parents. This will eliminate the 10:30 pm email from a frustrated parent who doesn’t know the password to a site.
As you are setting up and teaching your classroom routines for the year, you need to develop technology routines too. This is extremely important because each teacher is going to have different routines for use, just like they have different routines for getting drinks and using the restroom. It can be even more challenging because the kids can feel like they know how to use them since they’ve been using them at home since they were small. You need to explain that the rules at home or in another class are not necessarily your rules.
Here are some routines you will need to establish.
Where are devices kept?
If you have a cart for your machines, that makes this job easier. However, only some teachers had them when I was teaching. Just the luck of the draw! So we had to be creative. I used baskets from the Dollar Store. Five computers in a basket with the power cords woven through the holes in the basket. Each cord had a number. When they put their computers away, they had to put it in the correct basket and use their assigned plug. My teammates used metal dish drainers.
Some districts assign computers for you. My school put our names and a number on each of our computers. So, my computers had labels that said Rosenberger 1, Rosenberger 2, etc. If your school doesn’t label them, use a sticker of some sort to identify them. My first set of computers just had my name on them, so I added those round dots people use for yard sale prices, and labeled them 1-10. Whatever you use, you need to make sure each kid is assigned to one computer. If you must share, you may want to keep the same two kids on a computer. If another student can’t use their own computer, keep records of who used a different computer and when it happened. Those are the times that everything seems to break.
You need rules that apply to both the use and handling of the devices. These must be very specific and tell the kids what are they permitted to do and what is not allowed. The tech department may have a list of rules. (If they don’t, they probably should.) Look over them and then add any that you feel apply to your group. Post these rules for the kids to see. Make them kid friendly. If your rules from the technology department are not written at an appropriate level, rewrite them. For younger students, use pictures. Older students may also benefit from a visual or two on the list you hang in the classroom.
Remember, rules are not procedures. Rules should be broad enough to cover a wide range of situations.
Procedures for early finishers
Setting up these technology routines is very important, and each teacher may have their own ideas on what is appropriate. If your students finish an assignment using technology early, are they still allowed to use the computer? What exactly are their options? One of my rules was “If what you are looking at applies to the topic, that’s ok.” So if we were studying volcanoes and they wanted to watch videos of volcanic eruptions, that was fine with me. If what they are looking at has nothing to do with class work, that is not ok. Be VERY specific. Post a sign. Review the rules consistently, because they will try to get around it any way they can.
Another thing you can do is create a Symbaloo page and share it with the kids. Symbaloo is similar to posting a list of your bookmarked sites and sharing it with other. But the sites are represented by tiles that they can click on. You could make a rule that if they are done early or have free time, these are the only acceptable sites they can explore.
It’s not too difficult to set up, and once you do you can email the address or post it on a website or your Google Classroom. What if you decide to add more websites? Add them to the grid, click the refresh button and it will be up to date if the kids click on it.
Here are some things to consider that will allow more learning to take place while making life easier for you.
See the Screens
Decide on where the students may work on the devices. Can they sit on the floor? If so, you want to make sure that you have easy access to their screens! They can be super sneaky.
Give directions first
Some technology routines are for you, the teacher. It is a good idea for the students to see and hear the instructions before they actually open the machine. If you try to give directions to the whole crowd, it can deteriorate into chaos once you start hearing “Where are we?”, “What are we supposed to click on?”, and “Is this right?”
If they’ve used the program before, they should be able to open it and get to work once you have given the directions. If you are teaching a new program, you may want to give the students a “How-to” sheet after you demonstrate, so they can continue working if they get stuck.
Keep a how-to sheet for each of the programs you use on a regular basis. These sheets will also be useful when new students arrive. Then you won’t have to spend a lot of time reteaching the site.
I have a small, but growing, library of how-to sheets in the member section of this website. All you need to do to become a member is sign up for my newsletters. It doesn’t cost a thing!
Allow Play Time
When I was in college, (back in the stone ages) the professor for my teaching elementary mathematics class told us that if you were going to use math manipulatives, you better allow some time for the kids to play with them. Boy, was he right! Now, in the technology age, the same thing applies to computers and other technology. The kids are going to want to play with it. When you make a lesson plan that includes a new site or tool, put in a few minutes for exploration. Determine an amount of time, set a timer (preferably one that is visible to the kids) and let them have at it. This should reduce distraction once they begin to work on their assignment.
Hands on, hands off?
You should develop a system for when the students will be on and off the computer. For example, I had a paper traffic light in the front of the room. If I wanted the computers closed because we were working on something else, I had the red light on. A yellow light meant they should keep the machines at a 45-degree angle because we were coming back to it and I didn’t want their Chromebooks to log out. If the green light was on, they were expected to be working on their computers.
Have a backup plan
Technology is great…when it works. There can be all kinds of technology disasters; those that affect the whole class, and those that only affect one. If you are doing something that the kids could do on paper, keep a paper copy in case of a personal technology disaster. In case internet issues shut down the whole class, keep a generic alternative plan ready. Sort of like an emergency substitute plan. Something you could do in that class without technology at any time during the year.
Something that can save you time and stress when using computers is to assign some of your kids act as technology specialists. There will be some students that will catch on to everything very quickly. These kids usually want to help other students who are stuck. You can assign them as your IT Specialists. In my room, it almost always seemed to be the kids who needed a little extra self-esteem boost. You can also just ask if someone can help when a classmate is having trouble. You don’t have to fix it all yourself.
Interested in ways to use technology to get the school year off to a smooth start? Here are some other posts you may be interested in.