Sunday, March 16, 2014

Integration 101: Basics Make you Better

So someone just came and dropped off 20+ iPads in your classroom, or you just heard that next year your district is going 1:1 with devices.  

Did you just jump for joy or groan with fear?

Congratulations!  Your students have an opportunity that most of the world’s children do not...connection beyond the classroom.  It’s powerful.  It’s engaging.  It’s sometimes...scary!

We’d like to kick off a series of posts covering the basics of integrating technology successfully into your classrooms.  Within each post, we will share photos, management tips, project ideas, and student work.  

Let’s get started!

Rule #1:  Don’t panic.  

On the first day of school when you cover all of those beautiful routines, procedures, and guidelines with your students...include this one for yourself and your students.  Don’t panic!  Technology is amazing, but it isn’t perfect.  Dropped networks, blank screens, spinning wheels of death happen to the best of us.

What matters is how you deal with it.  The way we see it, you have two options.  

1) Panic, shut everyone off of their device, lock them away, and go cower in the corner as far away from the devices you possibly can.  Be sure to tell everyone how terrible technology is, how it is too difficult to manipulate, and buy a t-shirt that says, “Down with technology.”
2) Laugh and then teach the student how to work through problems as you discover together how to resolve the issue.  When in doubt, Google it. Many quick fixes can be found through a simple search, and you get the empowerment of learning something new. Sometimes it means calling in the big dogs.  Those people that are the “they” of the district.  The ones wearing superhero capes, carry large backpacks, and can fix all of your computer woes- often from a remote location.  Sometimes it also means humbling yourself enough to ask the techie teacher next door.  Chances are, they can help fix it in a snap all while showing you how.  Double bonus!  

The greatest difference between the two options is attitude.  In the first option, the students sense your panic and frustrations and that WILL rub off on them.  Don’t we spend our entire day teaching our students about having a good attitude, learning from our mistakes, and embracing tasks that sometimes we just don’t want to do?

What do you want to see reflected in the mirror of your students?

What about you?  Have you messed up?  Have you been guilty of Option 1?  That’s ok.  Today is a new day.  Start afresh...and don’t panic!

The smiles make it all worth it...we promise!

Set the Stage with Proactive Management

There are many questions you need to ask yourself before the first day with students.  If you have already started, it’s never too late to retrofit new ideas and routines!  You will just need to practice, practice, practice with the students to change habits.

These are the top four management issues we have faced in our classrooms and our tips for successful management.

1. Where will the device rest during idle periods?  

Techie Teacher Tips: Corner of the desk, seat pockets, book bins, cubbies, or even power carts if you have them.  Desks are often dangerous territory unless you have strict desk organization rules!  They need to be easily accessible, but safe! 

2. What is the protocol for student tech questions/problems?  
You will pull your hair out if you don't have a system in place. May we recommend...

Tiffany Tip:  In my third grade classroom, they must try these basics before coming to me. 
1. Ask a friend. Most of the time they can work through their own problems. 
2. Try refreshing the app/program.  In our district, they may need to "authenticate" by logging into our filter system.
3. Restart the app/program.  
4. Try restarting the device and logging back in. Many times this fixes the problem. If the device is frozen, they may need to complete a hard boot. (iPad: Press home and power for several seconds until it shuts down. Then re-power. Mac: Hold the power button until the computer powers down.  Restart.)  This is a last resort, and should only be used after the previous two have been tried.  

If the program persists in a freeze, they may bring it to me to fix.

Brittany Tip:  In my kindergarten classroom, I have a computer technician for a classroom job. They are able to help with basic issues that we encounter. The reality is that most kindergarten kids don't have the skills necessary to fix big issues.  Use the adults in your room to the fullest. Aides and parents can be wonderful resources!
3. What is the procedure for carrying/holding the device?  Expensive equipment in little, uncoordinated hands...could spell disaster if you let it!
Graphic courtesy of

Techie Teacher Tips: Two Hands on Deck, Hands at “10 & 2,” No More than Four (devices at a time), etc.  Come up with something catchy to say because you will inevitably find yourself repeating it! Decide how many devices can be carried at one time.

These Kinder-Kids have Two Hands on Deck!

4. What are the repercussions for being on apps/programs other than what is permitted at that time?  What about devices that go home and do not return?  What about inappropriate photos? Be sure your school has a firm policy in place, but you also need your own classroom guidelines! Know the policy in and out.

Techie Teacher Tip:  BE PROACTIVE AND STAY FIRM!  Whatever you put into place, enforce it!  If you don’t, you will have constant issues throughout the year.  Don’t be soft.  It won’t kill them to complete paper/pencil tasks while their classmates continue along.  Trust us, they learn pretty quickly! Be an active monitor of students.  Students are much less likely to stray if you are holding them accountable.  Our district uses LanSchool to help monitor student Mac screens from a single location. The lesson here is to not use student tech time to prop your feet up, relax, check your Facebook, read a magazine, or otherwise check out!

These third grade ladies work together and stay on task!

Wrap it Up!

Share with us! What are your biggest management issues in your own classroom?  What basic integration tips would you like us to share with you?

And don't forget...

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