When to Introduce New Technologies to Your Students: The New School Year
Whether school’s been in session for a few weeks or you’re starting after Labor Day, now is the perfect time to introduce your students to technologies you want them to use throughout the school year.
The First Days of School
As suggested by Harry and Rosemary Wong, it is wise to get to know your students before jumping into instruction. With secondary students, the first couple of days should be spent getting to know your students and sharing expectations. If you’re a primary school teacher, you’ll want to extend that time and may even go up to the first two weeks that the Wongs suggest. Take advantage of the newness of the school year and begin incorporating technology. The sooner you establish the expectation that students will be using technology in the classroom, the easier it will be to introduce new tools later on.
Grade and Assignment Platforms: Secondary Students
If you are going to be using a grade and assignment platform (such as edmodo, a wiki, a webpage, powerschool, engrade, blackboard, etc.) introduce these to your secondary students within the first week of school. Provide students with a short overview of the highlights of the program using your projector – don’t go into too much detail too soon. Then take students to a lab to create an account and/or log in with their account information. To get them familiar with the program, create a short assignment for them to complete for practice.
If your aim is to share information with parents, you may want to wait until the second or third week before you send a letter home explaining your class’s platform. Waiting serves a two-fold purpose. First, it will give your students ample time to adjust to the new technology so parents don’t get upset if something isn’t turned in because of the learning curve. Second, it gives you time to work out any kinks in your design and to familiarize yourself with any new platforms.
Grade and Assignment Platforms: Primary Students
The approach for primary school students is the mirror image of that for secondary school students. When using grade or assignment platforms at the elementary and early middle school level, get your parents involved immediately. Parents will help you in instructing younger students how to use the platform. Work almost exclusively with parents when first using the platform. Post what you are doing each day, send messages, and keep parents informed. After two to three weeks, parents will be familiar with your online presence and will help their students to understand the platform. As you begin to teach your students how to use the grading and/or assignment program, you’ll find that many students are already somewhat familiar with the program because their parents have shown them.
As with secondary students, make sure a practice assignment is ready for the first time your primary school students log on. If there are older students in your school using the same program, see if you can pair up with another class so these older students can serve as “mentors” for the younger. You’ll find this makes your life much simpler when it comes time to log students on for the first time.
Tips and Hints for Piloting Non-Required Grade and Assessment Platforms
1. “Shop” around before picking a platform, and don’t be afraid to change it up. For every paid service out there, there is at least one that is free. Unless your district is going to put up the money, find a service that is free for you and your students.
2. Create a “Teacher,” “Student,” and “Parent” account to see how students and parents will see your posts. Experiment with different features in each of these accounts so you are ready to answer questions and get students and parents “unstuck.”
3. Don’t go it alone. Find another teacher in your building who is willing to take the plunge with you. You can support each other, learn from each other, and try new things.
4. If you’re unsure that your chosen project is “The One,” practice with just one group of students for a semester before expanding it to all groups. Unless you have a lot of extra time on your hands, avoid testing multiple platforms at a time with different groups of students. You will find this cumbersome and confusing.
5. When you are ready to get parents involved, create a straight-forward, step-by-step guide for your parents. Make sure you include screenshots of any important screens and give parents your contact information so they can ask questions when they get stuck.