My students suck at technology…
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 my school 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 meaningfully interact 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 are really awful 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.