Implementing Tech Tools without the Headaches

Oct 23, 2023
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New tech tools are some of the most exciting resources to start using with your students—and also the most daunting to introduce without a few misgivings on your part. Before you know it, something goes missing, gets dropped, or the device is now speaking French. However, with careful planning, a few organizational tricks, and lots of practice, this doesn’t have to be the case. As you prepare for another school year, consider these tech tips to help manage technology in your elementary classroom without fear or frustration.

Model. Practice. Repeat.

Just as you would teach any other desired behavior or classroom routine, working with technology is no different. These days, many students will enter the classroom as early as pre-K with experience using smart phones and tablet devices (amongst other technology tools). They may know how to launch their favorite app or snap a picture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to use the device cooperatively and responsibly in your classroom. No matter the level of experience, teach each procedure explicitly before your students’ desires to use a shiny device takes over like a siren song.

Check out these five tips to get started:

1. Teach students to never bring food, beverages, or magnets near technology.

2. Model how to carry devices with two hands.

3. Instruct students how to carefully plug in or remove cords without excessive force.

4. Since technology is often used during rotations, select a student to be your ‘technology expert’ who can assist others when you are working with a small group.

5. Turn technology glitches into teachable moments by once again modeling and practicing correct behaviors.

Provide Visual Cues

Anchor charts, stickers, and login cards can become your best friend when it comes to setting up successful technology areas in your classroom. As much as you physically practice or verbally remind students of desired behaviors, there are times when a visual cue can reinforce procedures in a new and different way. Step-by-step guides make great resources for outlining procedures to locate a device, log on, and shut down. Similarly, different colored stickers can be used to help students identify which device to use, and login cards can save you from ever hearing “I forgot my password” again.

Get a closer look at a few visual cue tips below:

1. Post and label pictures of how a station should look before and after use—chair pushed in, mouse on table, login screen displayed for the next student, etc.

2. For young students using a desktop computer, add stickers to the mouse or keys that are commonly used.

3. Laminate login cards and add to a pocket chart or small ring if students have more than one to remember.

4. Assign and number any mobile devices using stickers or (for those who are tech savvy) add a numbered device wallpaper.

5. Create shortcuts to frequently visited sites on desktop or home screens.

Find an Organizational System That Works

Whether you have two devices or twenty, your coveted technology still needs a place to call home. No matter if you prefer a fixed table, rolling cart, or a single shelf, find a location that is easily accessible for students to both retrieve and correctly stow away devices. As you determine the right spot in your room, think through any required accessories as well. Is there space for slots or hooks to hold login cards? Where will chargers be plugged in? How can headphones be tucked away without creating a tangled mess? Answering these questions ahead of time will ensure you create a system that can last all year long.

Take a peek at a few additional organizational strategies here:

1. Ensure devices aren’t kept adjacent to a classroom sink, bathroom, or the class fish.

2. Seek out clever storage solutions such as dish racks, pot lid racks, plastic drawers, and jewelry storage for devices and accessories.

3. Add command strips to the sides of computers or on walls to hang headphones from.

4. Contain hanging cords using twisty ties to prevent tripping hazards.

5. Do a quick search for device tips to help lock down access and functionality—if you don’t, you just might pay for it later (with an iPad speaking French).

Streamline Device Troubleshooting

As more and more devices make their way into schools, troubleshooting the problems that come with them becomes a major effort. Many schools have only a few IT specialists on staff. Some don’t have any, relying instead on the centralized district staff. This lack of support can slow down the process of digital learning. Here are some ways that school IT staffs can speed up basic device troubleshooting.

1. Publish a troubleshooting guide

Many of the tasks that surround troubleshooting can be handled by the users themselves; they just don’t know what to do.

Take the time to create a guide to troubleshooting common problems that a user might have with various devices and platforms (for example, Internet connection issues, printing, projector connection issues, etc.) and then publish it in a binder, online to a wiki page, or both. Then, make a point of telling your users to consult the guide before they pick up the phone. It should cut down on your troubleshooting calls.

2. Enlist students

It’s imperative for students to learn computer skills in school, right? Although most people think that means coding, it also extends to the ins and outs of device maintenance. If you don’t have one already, try offering a “computer literacy” class, and make device troubleshooting a part of the curriculum!

This class could look a lot like the carry-in service at a tech store. Devices would come in with problems. The students learn how to troubleshoot them. Students can even be your first line of defense, visiting classrooms where teachers are having simple problems with their technology. This can work for students as young as upper elementary but is most effective starting in 8th grade or so.

3. Create a tech committee

Although most of your troubleshooting tasks will come from student devices, school employees may have problems of their own. There are ways to enlist teachers and other administrators to share the role of IT staff.

Instead of all tasks being handled by the IT team, form a cadre of teachers for a “tech committee.” This committee can help with everything from addressing overall tech issues in the school to deciding how to spend funds on new equipment. The only caveat with committee membership may be that members become the go-to troubleshooter for their particular wing or grade level. With this committee, you’ve just multiplied your IT staff.

4. Get parents involved

Parents want to stay engaged with the edtech revolution as well. Try hosting a series of parent nights based around technology. A couple of topics that are sure to fill the house are how to keep children safe online and how to block them from making unauthorized purchases. However, you can easily work in some troubleshooting tips as well.

Looking for more information about incorporating technology tools in your classroom? Take a look at our Hybrid and Virtual Learning Success Toolkit!

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