I think sometimes when teachers picture incorporating technology into their lessons, they picture elaborate lessons with technology bell to bell. Mr. Howard, a middle school math teacher, understands that adding even a little bit of tech can go a long way. Mr. Howard is a new teacher who is working on his Masters in Educational Technology. However, that doesn’t mean every moment of his classes is dedicated to tech. Technology can be used to enhance the learning experience, but technology itself does not replace good lessons.
I had the pleasure of observing Mr. Howard’s class recently. The students were working on cross-multiplication and learning about scale factor. Mr. Howard used a fairly low tech program called Plickers to get instant feedback for both himself and his students. Plickers are a low cost student response system. You only need one internet connected device with a camera, such as an iPhone, iPad or Android device. The students each get a paper scan code that has the letters A, B, C, and D on each side. The student holds the scan card with their answer choice at the top and the teacher scans the room with their device. The projected screen shows the student’s answers for immediate, real-time feedback. In Mr. Howard’s class, the students worked the problem out on paper and held up the answer they believed was correct. He could address the gaps in knowledge as they were happening. I was particularly impressed with the activity he did for one problem. The answer responses were split equally between A & B. Mr. Howard had the students get up and move to each side of the room based on their answer choice. They had a few minutes to discuss with their group, why they believed their answer was correct. Then they presented their argument to the other side. Imagine the surprise when the students realized that BOTH answers were correct and they now understood the reasons for both. It was an impressive use of a tool that some might feel is limited by only having four answer choices.
Another tool Mr. Howard’s classes have started using is Prodigy. This is a math game that students can access on their phones or any Internet connected device. The content connects with the math standards and works well with the curriculum they are using at their school. Students in Mr. Howard’s class and several others are using Prodigy to supplement the learning they are doing in class. The students are engaged and the teacher is receiving real-time data on the progress of the students.
It is important that teachers remember that it is okay to start small. Introducing one simple tool can have a big impact on learning. Once teachers get comfortable with one tech tool, the leap into the next one will be even easier!