Teach with technology they say. It will be fun they say. The students will be engaged. You will be teaching 21st Century Skills (whatever that really means).
I have been trying and failing, to teach with technology since 1995. I even failed horribly when I taught at a school that offered laptops to every student.
Because I am persistently dumb, I continue to plan lessons involving technology. When I plan these lessons I feel like the main character, Ralphie, in the movie, A Christmas Story, penning his essay on the joys of owning a BB Gun:
I plan lessons imagining all of my students will be engaged, happy, and will interact meaningfully with the content. In my mind it looks like this:
However, when I have taught with most technology, my classroom looks like this:
Until last year.
Last year I discovered a software program that is almost tech proof. This company is called Nearpod and I want to marry it. Layman (people not in education or people who are in education but have not taught students for a good long while) think that students pop out of the womb with tech skills. People joke that if an adult doesn’t know how to program a DVD player, they should ask a kid. (Does anyone still use DVD players?) My experience is that my students suck at any technology that makes them be intuitive, take a risk, or God forbid, create a table. I don’t have time to teach 20,000 years of Global History and teach adolescents how to make a table in a Word or a Google document! My observations of student technical expertise have been this: if the tech is not delivered in app form, most students will give up.
Nearpod offers the best of both educational worlds — students need low-tech skills and teachers get to create their own lessons.
I am not getting paid to endorse the Nearpod company. I am simply singing the merits of Nearpod to my fellow teachers.
Here is a list of things I love about Nearpod:
1. Every student works on their own device, while I project off my laptop. I set the pace of the lesson. Students do not stray from the image that I am presenting.
2. I can set up a short or a long lesson (I teach in a block schedule).
3. If a student is absent, I can connect the Nearpod lesson to Google Classroom.
4. Students can answer an open-ended question, draw on maps, engage in a poll, take a quiz, or drag and drop keywords into a fill-in-the-blanks exercise.
5. I can have both direct instruction and student interaction in one neat platform.
6. Nearpod just added a feature called collaborate which allows for class brainstorming — I look forward to checking that out in the near future.
If you have suggestions for other ways to use technology in my classroom, I would welcome learning about any other types of technology that improve my teaching without making me cry.