Many teachers react to pupil-owned technology negatively. Children embrace new technology in a heartbeat. Perhaps, as teachers, rather than battling against the rise of digital technology we should look to embrace it and use it to our advantage. The use of technology in schools can enhance teaching and learning and help you to organise your work and your work life much more efficiently.
Electronic registers, remote voting systems, virtual learning environments (VLEs), interactive whiteboards (IWBs), visualisers, smartphones, iPods and iPads all have a place in teaching, and many digital developments can enhance your teaching and the children’s learning.
Organising your class
Many schools have an electronic register that’s completed at the start of the lesson. This should generate class lists for you and these can be used in other software to create custom lists, seating plans and group lists. Remember that taking a register is not just good practice, it is also a legal requirement for teachers.
Many IWBs will have a small application that can randomly generate names or numbers. Using a random name generator during question-and-answer sessions keeps the class on their toes, directs questions and helps prevent shouting out.
Clearing away at the end of a teaching session is not the highlight of a lesson, but if it is linked to some stirring music, such as the Mission: Impossible or Countdown themes, it turns the activity into a fun challenge. Using the built-in timers on your interactive whiteboard sets a clear time-limit for clearing up. Those timers are also good for keeping up the pace in a lesson.
Register with our sister site TES and you can download all of the resources mentioned in this article for free
Flash countdown timer for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute times
Good planning is the key to a good lesson. Planning takes time and for NQTs planning time is the one thing that causes most problems. With experience, planning will get faster, but the one snag can be finding good resources.
Resources are plentiful on the internet, especially in the TES Resources online repository. Learn to use selected sites frequently – the ones that suit your style, classes and curriculum. Be careful about lesson plans and ideas from other countries – language idiosyncrasies and even health and safety requirements may be different elsewhere.
Looking for resources on the internet is probably the biggest timewaster for teachers. One link leads to another or one search entry does not quite provide what you need and before you can help yourself, a good hour or two can be lost.
Create planning templates for each class so common information (number of pupils with statements, who has TA support and when, where the class is taught etc) remains the same. That way, it is the essential planning (the lesson objectives and the activities) that is filled in from day to day rather than everything.
If you use an IWB, create files with standard pages that display key elements of your lesson throughout, eg learning objectives or key words. If you annotate your prepared files during the lesson, remember to save the file so that you have a record of what actually went on. This will help you to reflect on the lesson and provide prompts for adapting it for future use.
Your IWB software will also have lots of built-in features to help make lessons more interactive and stimulating. It’s worth setting aside some NQT time to practise using the board and explore the resources and functions. In general only a fraction of the capabilities of IWBs are used in day-to-day teaching.
Check out the hundreds of planning templates teachers have shared on TES Resources covering all the key stages
Interactive voting systems
Interactive voting systems can be used in a variety of ways, from simple multiple choice question-and- answer plenaries, to quizzes, game shows or whole-class revision of mock exam questions. They provide instant checks on pupil understanding. At any stage of a lesson you can obtain instant feedback or change the focus of the lesson to review areas that the voting system highlights as troublesome.
Collection of interactive lessons for use with the Qwizdom interactive voting system
Visualisers have been around for a long time, but they are getting cheaper and much more portable. They use a light and a digital camera and can be quickly linked to a digital projector. As well as showing objects – from creepy-crawlies to small items such as crystals, objects that are delicate or one-off items – they can be used to show work.
Instead of holding up a page in front of the whole class to show how well a pupil has completed their work, you can use the visualiser to show the work to the whole class and carry out peer evaluation. A visualiser could also be used to allow pupils to produce their own animated short film.
A Teachers TV video explaining how visualisers are being used effectively in the classroom
Organising your worklife
If your school has a VLE, this can be a great way of making lessons accessible to pupils at home. Homework can be put online – no more excuses that your pupils didn’t know what the homework was or they lost their diary. Lesson summaries and links to relevant websites can also be placed on your VLE.
Podcasting and vodcasting
If you are feeling creative, why not record some podcasts or vodcasts to help pupil understanding? For the science teacher, videoing a tricky demonstration experiment or showing a spectacular chemical reaction can help you to create stimulating lessons that can be seen time and again by your pupils. You could even get the pupils to download podcasts or vodcasts to help them in the lesson.
- A guide to help explain what a podcast is
- Teachers TV video on how podcasting has been introduced into this primary classroom
- Podcasting scheme of work to help students produce a Breakfast show podcast
- Teachers TV video on how to use podcasting effectively in the classroom
From a personal perspective, use technology to help you to organise your teaching life. Keep an electronic diary that synchronises with your smartphone to bring essential information close to hand at all times. Use built-in reminders for tasks to ensure you have an up-to-date working to-do list.
Plan ahead for report writing by keeping notes on pupil performance, and when you think of good phrases to use in your reports, collect them together so that when it comes to writing the reports you can cut and paste relevant personal comments on your pupils’ progress.
The main thing to remember is that technology does not replace you as the teacher. It is a tool and, as with all tools, you need to learn how to use it to your advantage.
Further reading on technology in the classroom
Make the most of ICT in your classroom: Top tips on how to introduce technology into your lessons without spending a fortune
Handheld devices as a teaching tool: Jan Webb casts an expert eye over the apps available for pupils and teachers
James answers questions from trainee teachers in our trainee teacher forum www.tes.co.uk/trainee
For more advice, jobs and support for new teachers subscribe to The TES. View our best offer for new and trainee teachers now.Subscribe