While I did my two-year fellowship in a public school, one of the things I got to experiment with was technology. And in those two years, I’ve learned that to start using technology in a public school classroom (where there’s a 50:1 student-teacher ratio), you can do it effectively in simple ways. When I say simple, I mean using a few tools to solve specific classroom problems. Does it require only low technology? – Yes and no. Yes, because it requires a simple setup. No, because I still used specific gadgets (which admittedly some teachers don’t have…YET). So if you’re thinking of using technology, here are some strategies that worked in my classroom.
HOLD UP! Just a quick tip before trying ANY of these out. Make sure your students know your classroom management routine! If not, here are some articles to make sure your routines are in place – Classroom Culture, Classroom Space, and Classroom Behavior.
- one tablet
- computer speakers
- one monitor
Scenario: We don’t have a science lab and equipment. How can I discuss matter when it involves abstract concepts?
Using videos is very effective because they tend to be “sticky”. By this, I mean, the ideas and concepts stick. The tricky part here, though, was spending hours looking for short videos that explained science concepts in a creative and engaging manner. One of the things I found challenging was looking for simple videos without narration – this was because most of the videos explained the concepts in English and it was a foreign language for many of my students.
Try this: Use the Free Video app to download videos directly into your tablet. You can also view the video offline. Resource sites like Have Fun Teaching and TED-Ed are also very helpful, depending on the content you’ll need.
Scenario: I need to teach a dance for MAPEH but I’m not the best dance teacher.
Since I taught a self-contained class, I taught my grade 3 students all the subjects. One subject I found a bit difficult to teach was MAPEH. Recognizing the fact that my gross motor skills are quite poor, I used dance videos to help my students learn the required dances. Since Zumba is pretty popular, many of the kids enjoyed copying the dance moves from the screen. I also learned some of the dances with them! We had to do this in small groups since there wasn’t enough space inside the classroom.
Scenario: It’s so hard to grade group performances. How can I note each student’s performance?
After practicing their dance in small groups, I took a video of each group and saved it on my tablet. They watched their own performances and I asked them to rate their own performance. After this exercise, they practiced again with a bit of knowledge on which skills they should improve. It was a treat to see their reactions when they watched themselves on video! They loved it so much! For grading purposes, I was able to watch the videos again and review how each student performed.
Try this: Use the Coach’s Eye app so that students can view their performance side-by-side with the actual demo video.
Scenario: How can I make remedial reading classes more fun? I’m tired of repeating the sounds of the letters and teaching my students how to blend.
I encountered a few students who struggled with reading fluently. Some of them knew all the sounds of the letters but could not blend them together to form a word, while some of them only knew a few letter sounds. Since we had to go back to basics, it was a little tiring to repeat myself all the time. I found an app called Word Wizard. The nice thing with this app is that the features are fairly simple – you have a keyboard and whenever you touch a letter or drag it, the sound of the letter can be heard. When you put the letters together, the new word is read aloud. The downside, though, is that the app was made for English. When we were learning how to blend already, we had to turn off the audio because the narration did not match Filipino pronunciation.
Try this: Use the locally made app called Spell Cheese. Students will have fun spelling and developing their vocabulary using photography. Reluctant readers may also try the book apps of Adarna Publishing, Inc. such as Araw sa Palengke and But That Won’t Wake Me Up!
Scenario: How can I teach one skill when students’ abilities vary?
I got this idea from the Kahn Academy. Video tutorials showed to be a promising strategy – I was able to try it out in whole class discussions and in remedial groups. Similar to what Salman Kahn did, I tried it out for math class. Once the students understood the concept of division (which took quite some time), it was time for us to try out long division. Some students couldn’t follow the process or steps as easily as the others. Instead of repeating myself over and over and raising my voice so that my 50+ kids could hear me, I made several videos and tried to model the process using Think Alouds. It worked! I knew that students were engaged because during the modeling process, some of them would raise their hands to answer Think Aloud questions. For my remedial class, my students were able to repeat and repeat the videos as much as they wanted – and I felt that it gave them some sense of relief and independence that I wasn’t there to watch over their shoulders. This gave me free time to teach my struggling readers.
Try this: One thing I missed out trying was having the students create their own video tutorials. This could be a great way of analyzing and understanding their thought process since they would be explaining the concepts or procedures. Check out what Alan November wrote about students creating their own tutorial videos.
Technology for Productivity and Practicality
Are you saying that videos are better than real experiments?
Why would I need an app to teach letter sounds when I can just use flash cards?
Let me emphasize that pedagogy and technology are two different things. Which one should you consider first? Pedagogy, of course. Before using technology, ask yourself what your objectives are for a particular lesson, how you will assess it, and then what learning activities you should plan for your students.
Now, on top of that, consider the following factors – you have 50+ kids and you have more than 6 subjects to teach (all of which you do in a half day session). Which practices would be practical and efficient for you and the kids? We might not have the same answers because our contexts might be different. But, I believe, that it was in answering these questions that I found the sweet spot between technology and pedagogy.