Technology in the classroom – how to effectively integrate tech
Getting the balance right between great teaching and the exciting use of tech is a tricky one to strike, says Rachel Walker, but it is absolutely worth the effort…
Picture this: it’s 2019, in a classroom of 30 Year 6s. Each pupil holds a tablet, playing what appears to be the same video, but at different points.
They wear earphones. Some are working on a whiteboard. Some write with styluses on half their screen while they watch the video of the other half.
The teacher also has a tablet in her hand and appears to be staring at it intently. Has the teacher gone to sleep?
You may think that the role of technology in this case has completely ousted the teacher.
Not so. This teacher is me, and this is the story of a maths lesson. In fact, one of the best I’ve ever taught – and how it has shaped the way I view how technology is used.
The situation that led to this lesson will be familiar to many teachers of UKS2. It took place in December and that May deadline was looming.
A quick assessment of division methods revealed the vast majority of children had not understood it and were in need of intervention.
The solution? Flipped learning.
The evening of the assessment, I recorded three videos (one a screen recording, two of me actually at a whiteboard teaching). I added them onto our learning platform, Showbie.
I then uploaded three separate tasks: one that I knew even my pupils who were struggling most could access; one that I expected everyone to complete; and a challenge.
I then uploaded a voice note containing the instructions.
When the time for the lesson arrived, I simply told the class where to find their work, and that they should listen to the instructions and start.
For the first 10 minutes, I observed.
This is where classroom management apps have become my best friend. I can look at my tablet and see exactly which child is accessing which video, as well as see them writing their answers in real time.
A critical moment was when a child who usually struggled with such work paused his video and approached me. He said: “I understand everything up to here, but I have watched it twice and I still don’t get the rest.”
I could intervene, at exactly the point I needed to, without repeating everything unnecessarily.
By the end of the lesson, nearly every child had understood the concept.
Technology for all subjects
Of course, this method of teaching doesn’t work for every learning objective. But tech can still help.
For example, I started one of my writing lessons with an augmented reality tour of each of the planets through Google Expeditions. We built vocabulary and sentences using class discussion on Showbie, then the children wrote up the work in their books. Finally, we used iMovie to create an advert for an imaginary tour of the planets, basing the voiceover on written work.
Platforms that allow you to create an online workbook for the children are very useful (I use Showbie).
You can typically upload almost any file type, and have live discussions with pupils as a class or individually. Sometimes, younger children can even sign in using a QR code.
Often, you can give feedback in many ways, and children can annotate images and documents, too.
The app BookCreator provides huge amounts of opportunity for producing work digitally, as well. You can use it through a browser like Chrome or get the app. It enables you to produce eBooks that pupils can read online or export as videos or PDFs.
I’ve used it extensively in French, as you can record writing and speaking so easily, but it lends itself to each subject in different ways.
Another platform that can instantly get your class hooked is Chromavid, a free greenscreen app that you can use to produce images to spark writing.
Our Year 2s did a brilliant photo session where they pretended they were in the Great Fire of London, followed by some first-person writing accounts that explored that experience.
Technology really does change the classroom environment and the possibilities are truly endless.
Getting the balance of great teaching as well as exciting use of tech is a tricky one to strike, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
Rachel Walker is a teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator, and maths & digital SLE at Sneinton Primary. Follow Rachel on Twitter @mrswalkerteach and see more of her work at blueskyteacher.wordpress.com