By now, you have probably heard the cliché, “work smarter, not harder.” I can’t think of a better application of this than when it comes to technology in the classroom. The possibilities and resources are endless, and while many are effective, some can bog you down, taking time away from planning and grading. Technology has completely changed the K-12 classroom since I began teaching in the midst of Y2K—remember when there was one massive desktop per classroom that was only for teacher use and most teachers used transparency films and an overhead projector? Today, student learning looks and sounds very different and it is rare to enter a classroom where technology is not being used in almost every aspect of teaching or learning.

There are hundreds of applications available for any single classroom need, such as behavior and time management, assessment delivery or even randomizing the order of students for tasks. I often found myself sucked into a new, shiny program that was not user-friendly only to end up frustrated and having lost my entire planning period trying to figure it out. How do you sort through the endless options and land on what is best for YOUR STUDENTS and what will make YOU most effective as a teacher? Here is a quick list of questions to ask yourself when looking for a time-saving tool to enhance learning in your classroom:

  • Are you able to quickly and easily see how your lesson, assessment or students’ understanding will be improved by this software or tool? If this visualization does not come naturally then you might be wasting your time.
  • Does it have an intuitive user-interface?  Having to constantly search, guess, or experiment will increase your frustration and overall workload. Technology should make teaching easier, not overwhelming.
  • Is there a help-site or human support readily available? Will they pick up your call if you have a question? Nothing is more frustrating than wasting a planning period stuck in a phone tree or searching for answers. 
  • Will this technology enhance what you are already doing and promote higher-order thinking? Do a quick check using the SAMR model and see if it will take you to “augmentation” and beyond!

Teacher workloads can quickly become overwhelming and technology is one way to mitigate this and save teachers time, but you must be selective and keep your own learning curve in mind. If you cannot easily navigate a K-12 software or if there is not a help-site or support team readily available, you may want to keep searching. 

How has classroom technology improved your instruction and saved you time? What other tools have you tried that increased your effectiveness?

Amy Alvarez, MA, was a secondary science and ESL teacher for nine years and a school administrator for ten. The majority of her tenure was with Title I schools and supporting Latino students in Colorado, Minnesota and Texas. In 2004, as a teacher in Mounds View, MN, she was a member of a PLC that used Mastery Manager for all of their common assessments and for collaborative analysis of learning. It transformed her lens on the art of teaching and her PLC became a model for the district. Amy has used this experience to support her teachers’ PLCs during her administrative career and in her current position as an Education Solutions Area Manager for Goldstar Learning. You can learn more about Amy at  her LinkedIn profile.

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