Saturday, June 28, 2014

What to do when you don't have enough technology in your classroom

Forward thinking educators are constantly promoting the use of technology in the classroom. There are unlimited ideas on the web for using all sorts of devices and digital platforms for learning. But what if you find yourself in a classroom that isn't equipped with the tools needed for modern learning?

Although our school has more resources than many, I still feel we are behind. We aren't able to fully implement so many of the good ideas that are out there because we just don't have the tools yet. We have a few classrooms that are much better than others, but across the board our students don't have the consistent access to technology that is needed.
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But the good news for us is that I believe we will move forward in a big way, and soon. We are committed to implementing a 1:1 program for our students. I'm not sure if it will be Chromebooks, or iPads, or PCs or Macs, but I'm confident that in the near future our students and teachers will be able to create, communicate, and collaborate consistently in a blended learning environment.

But there are many schools that don't have the vision or the resources to make that happen. If you are teaching in a classroom where you don't have the digital tools needed, you can still be an innovative teacher. Instead of focusing on what you don't have, think about how you can solve the problem to create a modern learning environment for your students.

Here are a few suggestions that might help you get what you need.
1. Ask for more technology. You may get told no, but it never hurts to ask. I always appreciate when teachers ask for resources, even if I sometimes have to say no, or not now. When a teacher advocates for his or her classroom, that sends a message that you are trying to create the best learning experiences possible for your students. If you don't get what you need the first time, give it some time and ask again in a different way. Keep trying.

2. Get involved with any technology planning committees in your district. If you are involved in the planning for district technology initiatives you may have influence to help bring new technologies to your school. You can make your voice heard and advocate for why these tools are important in the classroom.

3. is a great way to crowd source your classroom project. You simply create a listing for what you need for your classroom and wait for donors to choose your project to fund. The more compelling your request the better chances it gets funded.

4. Apply for other classroom grants. You might have a local foundation, or PTA, that funds classroom projects, or you might check with Best Buy or Walmart. At a previous district, one of our teachers completed a grant from Best Buy for a computer, projector, and screen.

5. Use BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategy. If you can't provide devices for your students, have them bring their own, if allowable under school policy. Many things can be done cross platform so it isn't necessary for everyone to have the same device.

6. Connect with students through social media, a website, or blog. Even if it's difficult to connect digitally with your students during class for lack of technology, you can still connect outside the school day. Be a digital leader in your school by using online tools to make learning visible and connect with your students and their parents.

7. Involve your students in fundraising to get what you need.  There are a million ideas for fundraising. Use your students as resources to help plan and carry out your efforts. Your class might earn those tablets sooner than you think.

8. Think about digital learning. Until you are able to acquire the tech you desperately need, you can still bring digital vocabulary and thinking into your classroom. Ask your students questions that involve using tech as a tool. How would we approach this problem or this task if we had iPads or laptops? Or, ask students to respond to a prompt by writing a Tweet on...gasp...paper. But remember it has to be less than 140 characters!

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