The past couple school years have been filled with massive disruptions that have fueled a new wave of investment in educational technology. EdTech solutions filled crucial roles in allowing schools to continue offering instruction despite many uncertainties.
The surge in new technology tools has had some challenges, though: often, teachers bore the brunt of learning, rolling out, and then teaching students how to use new devices, apps, and tools. And administrators bore the burden of showing teachers that the benefits were worth the effort.
Given this, we understand that teachers and administrators alike may feel a sense of tech burnout. The idea of implementing yet another new tech solution is exhausting, if not overwhelming.
Yet it’s clear that the future of classroom instruction involves more tech, not less. There are plenty of tools already on the market that actively aim to serve educators and schools. We’ve already reviewed plenty of them on our blog (like in 20 Classroom Technology Tools You Might Not Know).
What’s less often discussed is how and when to implement new technology tools in schools and classrooms.
Read on for our guide on how to do it right! And listen to this episode of EdTech Heroes to see how teachers can maximize tech stacks!
Considerations when teachers, administrators bring new tech into classrooms 🏫
While we’re definitely all in on EdTech in the classroom (we are an EdTech company, after all!), implementation must be handled carefully. Technology can greatly aid teachers and students, but technology run amok can hinder more than it helps.
Teachers and administrators should be aware of these five considerations as they consider bringing any new tech tool, platform, service, or device into classrooms.
Student and teacher familiarity with the technology resource
First, how familiar is the typical student or teacher with the type of technology resource you’re considering introducing?
If students and teachers have existing experience with a particular technology, it may take less time to get the new resource up and running. You may also notice better adoption of a tool that’s at least somewhat familiar than with something totally outside students’ and teachers’ experiences.
To be clear, this isn’t to say you should never introduce an unfamiliar technology resource. Otherwise, EdTech adoption would never make any progress. The classroom ought to be a place of learning, and students need familiarity with the types of tools they’ll use in future careers.
The point here is that, before implementing new classroom technology, you should consider how familiar or unfamiliar that educational technology will be (to teachers and students alike). Don’t introduce too many unfamiliar tools too quickly, and be sure to provide appropriate training for any new tool introduced.
Time required to fully integrate any new technology into the classroom
Many educational tech tools promise to reduce time, increase efficiency, improve student learning outcomes, and so on. What they don’t focus on in their slick marketing materials is what it’s going to take to fully integrate the new tool or service.
But decision-makers must evaluate the time, cost, and learning curve that come with fully integrating something new.
- Is the new type of technology resource frictionless to integrate into existing workflows and with existing tech tools? Or does integration take higher-level tech knowledge?
- Does the new tool actually streamline what you’re doing, or does it add complexity that will never go away?
Then, beyond the initial setup and integration costs (time⏱ and money 💵 ), there’s also a question of genuine, long-term usefulness:
- Will students and teachers still be using this tool (or a future version) in two years? Five?
- Is the tool easy enough for the youngest students and most tech-averse teachers to master?
- Does the tool allow users to create truly impactful results, different from what they can create now?
Related: Watch below to see how tech consolidation combats tech fatigue for teachers.
How the technology augments and expands the teacher’s reach
The best classroom technology implementations are teacher augmenters, not teacher replacements. You’re looking for tools that expand a teacher’s reach 💪, not robotic replacements 🦾 for the teacher’s role.
In other words, the use of technology shouldn’t distract from the teacher but should instead expand the teacher’s abilities and reach — making the teacher more crucial, not less.
Learning management systems are a good example here. Students aren’t likely to get distracted by them (they aren’t shiny or interesting), but they allow teachers to do more, faster, and they support the learning process for multiple learning styles by giving students a central location to find and review resources. They can also serve as a hub for personalized learning, allowing teachers to customize the learning experience for students as needed.
How many styles of teaching the new tech supports
Next up, consider how flexible the new tech is in terms of how many situations and cases it would be useful in. A niche tool that only supports a handful of teachers needs a much more compelling justification than a broadly useful one that nearly everyone will use.
Again, we’re definitely not saying that niche tools are irrelevant or unimportant. Certain multimedia editing tools or apps or devices used only in specific high school science courses🧑🔬 by definition won’t see broad adoption, but they’re still crucial to the delivery of education at certain grade levels.
Also, consider whether the tool supports the class types and teaching styles currently in use throughout a school or district, including traditional, hybrid, blended, and flipped classrooms. Also evaluate whether the tool serves different types of learners and whether it remains useful in nontraditional learning environments.
How education-focused the new tech is
Sometimes, a general-market tech product works quite well in education (for example, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Skype, the iPad). But some of the best instructional technologies are 100% focused on education, designed with a laser focus on the needs of students, teachers, schools, and school districts.
As you consider adopting new technology, evaluate how education-focused that new product or service is. Tools designed specifically for educators (not for office-dwellers or general consumers) tend to have a better focus, with a goal of improving the education and learning that students receive.
Major ways tech is being implemented in the classroom 💻
Another way to think through what to implement in your own school or classroom is to know what others are doing. Here are six major ways we’re seeing technology implementations in today’s classrooms.
Giving every student access to devices
One of the hottest trends in educational technology implementation is 1:1 device programs. Back in 2019, nearly half of respondents to one industry survey reported that their schools had implemented a 1:1 device program. (If this number seems high, survey respondents may have skewed toward the already tech-forward.)
EdWeek reports that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated this trend, with more and more schools scrambling to achieve 1:1 to support hybrid and remote learning. EdWeek Research Center found that 1:1 device adoption went from roughly 66% for middle school and high school students before the pandemic to around 90% by March 2021.
Such programs certainly come with many concerns and challenges: maintenance, security, costs, changes to student behavior and expectations (“Students must charge Chromebooks before arriving for the day!”), just to name a few. But the value of connecting every student to digital resources and course content is immense.
Utilizing cloud-based software like Google Docs
Schools are increasingly transitioning into shared resource and document creation platforms as a complement to traditional paper-based assignments. Doing so helps to teach students how to use these technologies (which will be part of everyday life for millions of future employees🧑💻).
Students also gain new ways of communicating 🗣 and engaging with one another and valuable experience learning how to do so.
Implementing gaming into the classroom
To some teachers, gaming in the classroom might seem like a clear violation of the rules, not a legitimate learning experience. And true, there’s little educational value in sessions of Fortnite. But educational games have been around for a long time, and they’re only getting better.
iThrive Games, for example, is creating deep learning experiences through its online role-playing sims, which teach civics, social studies, and humanities for high school students. Their Game Design Studio Toolkit is an excellent STEM resource for advanced computer students interested in game design.
At a younger level, Minecraft Education Edition allows students to explore, learn, and code within a game world that’s likely already familiar to most students.
Related: Listen to Susan Rivers of iThrive Games discuss more on gaming on EdTech Heroes!
Putting video content at the center of learning
Teachers and students are increasingly utilizing video content in teaching and learning, and not just for special projects and presentations. A decade or two ago, this would’ve been nearly impossible. But advances in hardware (nearly everyone has a video camera now in their phone, tablet, or laptop webcam) and new tech tools have completely changed the landscape.
Teachers can now create video lectures in little more time than it takes to give an in-person one, and students can access those video lessons from anywhere, supporting hybrid, virtual, and flipped classrooms. They can also use screen recording tools to communicate more quickly with parents.
Students can also use video in new and novel ways, turning in video assignments or responding to interactive prompts within videos assigned to them.
More and more students and teachers alike are growing familiar with basic screencasting and video editing tools. These tech functions used to be reserved for people with specialized tools and training, but now they’re available to everyone thanks to easy-to-use tools like Screencastify.
Curious how you might implement screencast-style video content in your classroom? See what Screencastify can do for teachers.
Growing use of social media
Social media is largely viewed as an outside-the-classroom experience, but there are ways that it can improve collaboration and community.
For example, teachers can create a class page or group on Facebook or create a classroom Twitter handle. Students can interact with each other in a class Facebook group page, or they can post what they’re learning via the classroom Twitter handle.
Part of the value here is in teaching and modeling for students healthy ways to interact with social media. If we’ve taught proper letter-writing for decades, why wouldn’t we teach proper social media use today?
Integrating interactive whiteboards and shared screens
Interactive whiteboards and shared screens are both powerful ways to collaborate and display visual (and sometimes interactive) content. Both of these help keep the focus on the teacher, augmenting what teachers are doing in the classroom or virtually without creating unnecessary distraction.
Tips for implementing technology for different accessibility levels💡
One challenge with implementing technology is that every situation is different. Schools have differing levels of funding and access to technology, and students’ home lives are far from homogenous. Some students don’t have internet access at home.
So even as we talk about the unstoppable march of technology into the classroom, we have to acknowledge that access to that technology is not equal, and students don’t all have ideal levels of support for learning and using technology at home.
No matter what your classroom looks like in terms of technology, you can still find plenty of ways to implement the technology you have. Here are some tips for a variety of accessibility levels, from a single shared classroom computer to schools with a 1:1 device program.
If you’re sharing a single classroom computer
A single shared classroom computer might seem like a hurdle that can’t be overcome. But if you think creatively about the limitation, there are numerous ways to leverage that computer.
The first and most obvious is as a display for audio/visual information. Displaying a PowerPoint presentation or similar file while you teach may not be cutting edge, but it’s still effective. The same goes for playing an educational video over a projector so that all students can view it.
Also, consider organizing the classroom so that the computer can be used for group projects. You’ll need to set this up in such a way that there are other “stations” not requiring computer access and rotate groups through, but it can be done.
Students can also use a computer as a presentation tool while giving live presentations or speeches.
If you’re using technology at in-classroom pod stations
If you’re not quite to 1:1 but you have multiple laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets available for use in the classroom, consider extending the station or pod approach even further.
For example, you could record different sets of instructions and various stations in the classroom, each with its own device. Students or small groups of students can cycle through the various pods, either completing a series of tasks or focusing on whichever elements they need additional reinforcement in.
For concurrent learning via video or interactive content, consider assigning a student leader for each pod who can help others navigate technology hurdles or learn material.
You could also use multiple stations to create different virtual field trip destinations throughout the classroom.
If you have full access to 1:1 mobile devices for every student
If you have full access to 1:1 devices for each student, you’ll be able to implement a wide range of EdTech tools and related strategies. For example, you could implement personalized lessons for each student as they can access their machine alone. Assign leveled content or differentiated instruction as needed.
Students who can learn via 1:1 devices can learn at their own paces (along the lines of the Modern Classrooms Project) as they don’t have to share resources. They can repeat sections, work more slowly and carefully, or move more quickly through content already mastered.
On-device interaction also offers another way for quiet or shy students to interact with each other or teachers.
There are countless other ways that 1:1 can improve learning outcomes, many of which are outlined in this excellent post on the topic.
Best practices for familiarizing students with new classroom tech 🙋
So once you implement a new tech tool, how do you get your students on board? Consider these best practices.
Make sure you understand how to use the new tool first
First, don’t roll out a tool you don’t understand. Learning the tool first will make it easier to explain and troubleshoot. 🕵️♀️.
Evaluate which skills students will need to know to succeed
Many tech tools use similar language (like Save or Upload), but you shouldn’t assume your students know these terms or have mastered these functions. Similarly, many digital tools have tons of features and functions your students don’t need yet.
Make sure to identify which tools and skills students will need to use, then clearly show them how to use those functions.
Formally introduce students to new technology
Take the time to formally introduce students to technology both in groups and individually — in advance of when they’ll need to use the tool. They need to gain some familiarity with it prior to needing to complete work within it.
Don’t introduce too many tools at one time
When implementing technology, be sure not to overwhelm or overcomplicate students’ lives by giving them too many new technology pieces (software or hardware) to learn.
Allow for controlled experimentation
Make sure that when you teach the tool, you don’t create an “on-rails” experience where students only follow the exact steps you outline. Instead, provide time to freely explore tools after you provide basic instruction.
Some students will learn more than the basics and start to use tools in new and creative ways.
Set boundaries with students when utilizing technology
When introducing new tools, whether new hardware technology or gaming opportunities, be sure to set boundaries related to appropriate usage. Students will explore and push boundaries — especially if you don’t define what’s out of bounds.
Have a backup plan
Any technology tool can fail or become unresponsive. Devices can die. So make sure that you always have a backup plan for students when working with technology. This way, class can continue even if the tech at the center of the lesson plan fails.
Having an offline backup plan helps in another way: it also allows students who might have an access issue (such as lack of reliable internet access) to complete work despite not being able to use the tech resources.
Teachers and students love implementing Screencastify in the classroom 🎬
Because Screencastify is so simple to use, teachers and students love using it in the classroom and at home to create meaningful screencasts and screen recording files. Anyone can get started with the free Screencastify Chrome extension, and teachers will find a wealth of helpful resources that will help you better use Screencastify for a wide range of classroom purposes.
Ready to see more? See what Screencastify can do on the district level!