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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The school year has started, and teachers across the country are excited to try out all the cool new tools they learned about during their "summer off." It's great to know there are so many educators out there ready to introduce something new and exciting in their classroom, but I have three tips to help you make sure that you get the most out of them.

1. Take It One at a Time

There's no need to implement all of your new tools at once. It will be overwhelming to students. You had all summer to learn about these tools and how to use them. You don't want to start the school year with half a dozen new tools that, while they might be wonderful, are just too much for your new students to assimilate. Choose a single tool, maybe your favorite or the one that students will use first, and focus on that alone. As students gain confidence in using this tool, consider adding a new one. Repeat this process until all of your tools are part of the class structure. Without the rush of learning everything at once, students can learn the technology along with the rest of the curriculum and master it earlier in the year.

2. Don't Force the Issue

You're going to reach a point where a tool you were hoping to use for certain parts of your class turns out to be a dud. It's not just you -- it happens to all of us. For some reason, the tool just doesn't click with the students, or it just isn’t fitting into the lesson the way you thought it would. The worst thing you can do is keep trying to make it fit even though it's obviously not doing what you want. Well, it's OK to toss this wrong tool aside and try something new. You can always come back to it next summer and figure out what went wrong. Forcing the issue will only frustrate students. Not all tools can be winners, and that's fine. Focus on the students you have right now, and the tools will work out when they are the right fit for your class.

3. Take Notes on How You Use the Tools

One summer, I spent many weeks learning a tech tool that I thought would be a perfect fit for my classes. Once school started, I did my lesson planning and added the tool where it seemed to fit. By the end of the year, I found that the tool hadn't been used nearly as much as I thought it would be, and it didn't have the impact I had hoped. The only reason I was able to reflect was because I took notes after each lesson. I realized that the tool didn't do enough to justify all the time I spent setting it up and using it. This allowed me to focus on a new tool that could have a bigger impact for the next school year.

Like lesson plans, not all tools are going to end up as big winners. Some will be great, some will need a bit of tweaking, and others will need to go into the trash as soon as possible. This is why it's important to constantly evaluate all tools used in the classroom to make sure you're getting the most out of them -- because the reason why you're doing this is to create the best learning environment for your students.

I hope these tips help, and I hope that you have an awesome start of your school year.

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