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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Seven Technology Tips for Younger Elementary

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

In conversations with educators in the lower grades, I often find that there is a sense of frustration or even fear in bringing technology into the classroom. These emotions have nothing to do with a fear or frustration with technology itself. In fact, many of these educators WANT to bring technology into their classroom but are boggled by how to train or prepare 6-9 year olds to create multi-step and engaging projects.

I won't pretend to be an expert, but after 3 ½ years teaching in a lab with Kindergarten through 6th grade students I have some tips.

  • Tip 1: Before introducing a new tool, play around with it enough to figure out where you think your students will struggle the most. This will help you step in at the right moment and predict problems your students may have.
  • Tip 2: Don't try to teach too much at one time. For instance, the first time you use a tool or a website, choose one or two learning goals (i.e. logging in or uploading a photo). If you ensure mastery of the little things by every student before you move on you will save yourself a huge headache.
  • Tip 3: Let students who master the goals quickly help others or allow them to explore the tool/site more deeply.
  • Tip 4: Use your students as a resource. If you have a particularly bright or tech savvy student, train them in a task to teach others. Got a student who is 'done?' Anoint him or her as another teacher who can help students who need help or who can sit at the classroom computer to guide students through the activity or lesson.
  • Tip 5: Start small. If you see a project you really like or hear of one you want to try, think about what skills your students will need to complete it. Want to have your students use Storybird to write a story? Teach them first how to word process with correct spacing, punctuation and capitals with a simply typing activity or sentence writing activity.
  • Tip 6: Have a student who is a non-reader or who has a fear of writing due to their low reading level? Have them dictate what they want to type and write it on a paper for them to type. Or, pair them with a 'fast finisher' who breezes through learning new tools.
  • Tip 7: Assess student progress with technology tools. I know, I know, more work for you. However, a simple checklist for a particular skill (i.e. use the paintbrush and eraser tool effectively) will help you keep track of who may need help completing a project before they begin to really struggle?intervention works with technology, too.

If you feel overwhelmed, that's normal. There is a large learning curve when bringing anything new into your classroom. Don't think that you will achieve rock star tech integrator status within your first year of making the plunge. Don't get discouraged if you feel like your projects aren't complex or deep enough. You'll get there. Also remember that when in doubt, you can usually count on a student to help out. Even a few of my 1st graders can handle walking around helping their classmates save a file! The important thing is that you take that first important step.

Have some suggestions I may have missed? Leave them in the comment area!

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