Inspired Ideas
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Inspired Ideas

3 Keys to Making Digital Learning More Effective

By Principal and Guest Blogger David Geurin

You can’t assume students are tech savvy just because they are digital natives

It’s true that students in today’s classrooms are digital natives. They’ve grown up around technology and tend to have some skills that are helpful in navigating the digital world. However, it’s a mistake to think they are proficient in using any tool you might throw at them. For the most part, kids have used technology for social media or entertainment. Using technology for learning, productivity, or creativity might be new to them. So, when you plan for using a new tool in class, plan to spend some time orienting students to how it works. Or, if you prefer for students learn the tool on their own, provide time for them to experiment with the tool and share out their learning to others in the class. It can be a good idea for students to “teach themselves” a digital tool.

Don’t just teach digital citizenship, embed digital citizenship

It’s never a good idea to hand students devices without also supporting safe, responsible use. Many schools create their own digital citizenship curriculum or buy one to use with their students. There are also some excellent digital citizenship resources available for free online. Try to anticipate the problems your students might encounter in using the digital devices in your classroom. Be proactive and have discussions up front with your students about what is appropriate to share, how to judge validity of resources, how to respect content ownership and fair use, and how to report something that is threatening.

Plan to manage distractions

One of the most common challenges of implementing devices in the classroom is dealing with the potential distraction technology can present. While technology open up a whole new world of possibilities for learning, it also opens a world of possibilities for diversion away from classroom learning priorities. This prospect is very frightening for many teachers. How will I make sure my students aren’t wasting class time? How can I make sure students are watching content that is not appropriate for school? Will the presence of a screen take away from learning instead of accelerating learning? The key to alleviate boredom is to stimulate curiosity and plan engaging lessons.

  • Clarify when it is okay to use earbuds and when earbuds should not be used.
  • Set up the classroom so you can easily move around and behind students using devices. You need to be able to easily view student screens.
  • Require students to only have one browser tab open at a time. This prevents switching tabs when the teacher is not watching to games or media that might be distracting.
  • When transitioning from devices to whole group instruction or another activity, wait until you have everyone’s attention before you move on.
  • Give specific instructions about which apps or sites should be used during a particular activity. Hold students accountable to use these tools only unless they ask permission to access another site.
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