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Six Tips for Teachers: How to Maximize Shared Resources

Mary Beth Hertz

HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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Despite the fact that more and more schools are investing in mobile devices and 1:1 programs, many schools are limited by cash-strapped districts and cannot afford such luxuries. As a result, many teachers are forced to share a computer lab or a laptop cart with the whole school. This can create scheduling fiascos, and it limits teachers' ability to truly integrate technology into their classrooms. For those who have access to a classroom computer or a few student desktops, I wrote a post a while back on how teachers can maximize the computer(s) in their classrooms. This time, however, I'll describe ways that teachers can get the most out of shared resources at their school.

The handling of shared resources varies from school to school. Some have these resources located in the school library. Some have a pre-determined schedule. Others have a system for signing out these resources. The system in place at your school will definitely affect the way you integrate their use into your teaching -- especially if access isn't always predictable.

Here are some tips and ideas to help maximize the time you have access to shared resources in your school, no matter how they are handled.

1) Introductory Session

If you're using a new tool or website, model it in the classroom before your scheduled time. This will eliminate time spent explaining the tool and give your students more time to use it.

2) Do It Yourself First

If your students will be creating an artifact, create one of your own and time yourself from start to finish. This will allow you to know approximately how long it will take your students to complete the assignment. If your schedule is unpredictable, try not to assign anything that will take longer than the time you have.

3) Collecting Student Work

Have a plan ahead of time for how students will hand in their work. If you use Edmodo or Schoology, have your students use the dropbox feature. If you have a Dropbox account, create a DropItToMe page and have students hand in their work to your dropbox. If your school has a public folder or your students have access to a class folder, model in the classroom how to hand in their work using this method before your scheduled time and/or create a screencast that shows them how they can view it during the scheduled time. If you don't plan for this, it will be a nightmare trying to organize student work, and you might not even be able to collect it in a timely fashion.

4) Communicate with Your Colleagues

Even if you have a pre-determined schedule, talk with your colleagues when you have an assignment coming up that will require using the shared resources. Otherwise, you'll never know if another teacher is willing to trade days or compromise to help you and your students. If you don't have a pre-determined schedule, talking with colleagues will ensure that they understand your need and that you understand theirs. It is also important to communicate with the media specialist, librarian or computer lab teacher in your building if you are using resources located in the school library or intend to use the computer lab.

5) Manage Time Wisely

To make sure that your students are able to complete the task at hand, divide the project or activity into chunks, and remind the class before beginning each chunk how much time they'll have to complete it. Yes, this goes against common sense since we all know that students work at different paces, but if you have access to resources for only 45 minutes once a week, that time needs to be used wisely. I use a kitchen timer in my lab because I've learned that my students will stop for a beeping timer more easily than the sound of my voice. Be prepared to provide opportunities for students to complete unfinished work outside of your scheduled time. This could be after school, before school or at home.

6) Communicate with Administration

The people who run your school should know about what you're doing with your students and why you need access to the shared resources. This will help when there are scheduling hiccups or if you need to rearrange your teaching schedule to fit in some time using the laptop cart or library computers.

Sharing resources across grade levels, hallways or an entire school can be a frustrating hassle, but with the right planning and preparation, teachers can still maximize these resources to give students access to digital tools for learning.

Photo credit: mia3mom via flickr

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Amy's picture

The two that I found most informative to my situation was Number 1: Introductory Session. This is where I show my students what they will be doing ahead of time. I would plan to do these 15 minutes before we go into the lab, I would use my own personal laptop and walk my students through what they will be doing in the lab for that day.

The second was Number 2: Do It Yourself. This is where the teacher completes each activity ahead of time to keep the time of how long each activity will take. This will be great so that I know that I am truly maximizing my hour. I want my students to be fully engaged for the hour that get each week.

This blog had 4 other great ideas for teachers short on resources. There is also a link to a previous blog Mary Beth wrote that is all about utilizing classroom computers.

zshowers's picture
5th Grade Teacher

Thanks for the helpful suggestions. My district has a few good pieces of technology, but is struggling with budget cuts. These can be easily applied to my day to make things go smoother.

Nancy L's picture

I think the most important/key item is to actually combine three of the numbers. Those being Doing It Yourself First, Model the activity and Managing time wisely. I feel that as any sort of professional, you must predict, plan, and prepare through each activity, lesson, class, etc. Each day can be compared to surfing. When the waves come in, if you are prepared you can ride that wave and enjoy the time. If you're not, the wave will crush you and leave you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated.

Ron Starc's picture

Monthly subscriptions can get expensive over the course of a few months. Instead of a online subscription service, try making a one time purchase for less than the cost of 2 months of service. My Screen Recorder Pro is an excellent screencasting tool. Records your screen and audio from the speakers or your voice from the microphone - or both simultaneously. The recordings are clear and look great when played back on your PC or uploaded to YouTube. It will record directly to AVI, WMV, MP4, or FLV. Just perfect for creating tutorials, demos, and presentations.

Renee's picture

Thank you for the good tips. It is also a good idea to pass out a page (prior to) that has the steps on what to do. This will eliminate some confusion and be a great reference for the students to have if using technology outside of the classroom.

Faiza Amir's picture

Some very useful tips indeed. And yes I agree that these have to be implemented simultaneously to make it effective. Another idea that I think might be useful is using multiple digital tools, i.e two or three groups may use tablets, two can have the digital cameras while some can use laptops. Teachers would need to adjust tasks accordingly. Also many of these mobile resources are available in schools. I find that when teachers restrict integration of digital technologies to taking their learners to the computer lab the problem of accessibility arises in a shared set up. I would love to hear from someone if they have any ideas of how to use multiple digital tools in classroom.

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