Ever since at-home learning, incorporating technology in my classroom has been vital. I used to feel so guilty putting students on the computer, however, the more we can teach students to independently use the computer, the more opportunities they will have in the future- both in and out of the school setting. This is how I set up my tech in the classroom:
1. Find a Space
Depending on your school and the type of technology you get (laptops, iPads), this can look many ways. No matter if you get a technology cart or if you get individual laptops, you will need an area to store the tech and charge tablets and/or computers. I always make sure my cart or laptops are stored on a wall with multiple working outlets. It is also helpful to keep the computers in an area that is accessible to students and staff, but not in an area where it may distract students when tech is not in use (our charging station is in the back of the room). This year, I don’t have a cart, but I do have a locked cabinet to store the laptops and created a charging station out of stackable paper trays and threaded the cords through the open back.
2. Create Procedures
Before presenting students with the tech, I come up with all of the procedures that we will use in the classroom around technology. I think about how and when I want students to get out laptops, how to store them when not in use and how students should be using their laptops (programs, websites, apps). From there, I create routines for students and staff to follow and then teach and practice those routines. I have students take their laptops out of the drawer and plug them in the charging station as part of their morning routine, while making accommodations as appropriate (partial participation, hand-over-hand). At the end of the day, students wipe their laptops with a wipe (bonus way to get in computer vocabulary). I also use TAH’s Technology Visuals and Social Stories to help teach and remind students of the procedures when using the computer.
3. Set Up Passwords
Follow your school and district’s guidelines for creating passwords and resetting passwords as needed. I like to keep my students’ passwords as simple (and secure) as possible so that they are better able to memorize their passwords. I put students’ usernames and passwords on Mavalus tape on their laptops, which is not best practice for security purposes, but is practical for students to have that visual prompt for increased independence. This can also be helpful throughout the day, as different staff may work with students on a given day and having their passwords accessible makes it easier for adults to assist students in logging in.
4. Set Up Apps & Websites
Our school uses the Clever site, which students log into and then are able to access all of their educational websites and apps, without having to do a separate login for each. I make sure that this is set up ahead of time by logging into each student’s computer and setting up Chrome to open on the Clever tab when clicked on. Something I always need to remind myself at the beginning of the school year is that it is okay to introduce one website or app at a time. Our school really focuses on Lexia, so I usually introduce that website first. It can also be noted that not all of my students use the same sites or apps, depending on their levels and goals.
5. Practice Using Technology
Taking the time at the beginning of the year to allow students to practice all the procedures for using technology ensures that students will be able to use tech with more independence and ease as the year goes on. I make sure that I am fully staffed when we first practice, so that students don’t have to wait and we are able to troubleshoot any issues before we incorporate the computers as part of independent work during small group instruction. Practicing using educational websites in a small group or whole group setting can be helpful for the students and staff so they understand what to expect when logging in. I will usually create an account for myself as a sample student (if the site does not already have a student view for teachers) so I can show students without interfering with their accounts and data. Another advantage of having students practice using computers is that it can serve as an informal assessment of their computer skills. I can create notes and accommodations for that student while I observe to include in their IEPs and to help guide staff on the best ways to work with certain students on the computer.
I hope this gave you some ideas about how to set up technology in your classroom. For more tips and information, check out 3 Websites Getting Me Through E-Learning, Tour of My Google Classroom, Technology Visuals and Teaching Parents and Students to Use Online Programs. Stay healthy and safe!