Tech Tuesday #13: What to Do When There’s Not Enough Classroom Tech

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In today’s post, I aim to shatter the number one myth I encounter as a teacher tech trainer: “I can’t use technology if everyone doesn’t have a device.” I can address this myth, because I overcame it in my own classroom, and you can too! My most recent classroom teaching experience was as a high school English teacher. Because our school was overcrowded, I got to live in trailer land, cottageville, or whatever you want to call it. I had twenty-four laptops in a car I had earned years ago, but at this point, they were slow-to-boot and not always the best choice for quick formative assessments. I also had one iPad (more about that later), as well as two desktops. The bottom is that, while I did have devices for some students, I had to rely on student phones for much of what we did in class.

Five Ideas for Using Your Limited Technology

There was never a day I taught that I had 1:1 devices for my students; however, I found a way to use technology with students almost every day in my class. Here are five ideas from my classroom to inspire you to make the most of your devices as well, specifically student phones.

Number 1: The One-Question Quizzer

It was always hard for me to use other people’s lesson plans. However, as a new American Lit teacher a few years ago, I turned to my best friend, Teachers Pay Teachers, for inspiration. One unit I purchased was from Laura Randazzo to teach Huck Finn. She gave me the idea to give students a one-question quiz on each night’s reading. Students came in every day, took out their phones, and followed a shortlink to a Google Form where I had put her questions. If they had read, it was very quick. Of course, I had to walk around while they quizzed, but the quizzers were great for phone-accessibility, and the data was ready for me at the end of the quiz to inform my instruction for that day. What about kids without phones, you ask? My two desktops and my one iPad were both available as supplementary devices, but I honestly had no problem with kids sharing phones; after one kid was done submitting, he could pass his phone to his neighbor for a quick turn answering the quiz. (P.S. If the kids did cheat this way, they were very bad at it ;))

Number 2: Reading Comprehension Checks

Another idea for using the phone devices that students do have is to create short formative assessments. Sites such as Socrative or Kahoot make review fun. In my classroom, I loved using Newsela as a site for nonfiction content related to fiction I was addressing in my class. However, the quizzes were pretty difficult.  By using the more gamified sites, I was able to quiz over those articles quickly with student phones and they thought they were just having fun. Two students could again share if the quizzes were short enough.

Number 3: Lightning Debates with Instant Feedback

One of my final teaching posts entailed me teaching honors 9th grade lit. Those kids loved to debate. They may not have been interested in everything I did in class, but if there was a chance to argue or make their points, they were certainly interested in that. Here’s where their phones came into play and made debating more fun and relevant. I lined students up facing another student in desks. They had previously researched a controversial topic such as euthanasia when I taught Tuesdays with Morrie. As the students went back in a point-counterpoint style debate, the other students had phones out and were able to vote for the winner in the three minutes that the the debate took. At the end, I had a grade on the rubric and was able to add bonus points for the winning student in each team. None of this required computers or iPads, just the devices in their pockets.

Number 4: Video Feedback

I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that the feedback students care most about is not the teacher’s. It’s that of their classmates or the greater world. This next idea for using phones when there aren’t enough regular devices addresses that need. I used Poll Daddy, which allows you to create free polls that are embeddable on a website. When students completed a video project, such as the time I had them present grammar terms or vocabulary words in a fun video, they were able to share the voting link with family and friends both inside and outside the school. Whoever got the most votes was declared the winner of Lolley’s Red Carpet Awards. How did students do their voting? From a phone 🙂

Number 5: Free Phone Apps for Classroom Tools

Finally, a last way to take advantage of non-traditional devices that students already carry is to connect them to free apps that support your learning management system or class digital notebook. The apps I like are OneNote, Canvas LMS, and any of the Google apps. Again, all are free and all are perfectly powerful on handheld devices.

Three Ideas for Getting More Classroom Devices

I’ve talked a lot in today’s  post about how to use hand-held technology, but what if you don’t even have that? What if your classroom is a no tech land? I have three ideas for you. Number one is to submit a Donors Choose Grant. Of course, you need to follow your district’s guidelines on how grants can be submitted, but if this high school teacher who generally didn’t get presents could get donations enough to buy class iPad, so can you.

Tip number two is ask parents to send in old phones. I don’t know about you, but I have at least one or two phones sitting in a drawer at my house. They’re not in service either because we upgraded or because they weren’t functional for what we wanted to use them for. However, if they can connect to Wi-Fi, the pared-down versions may be perfectly good for what needs to happen in your classroom. Tap those parent resources.

Finally, as I tell some of my schools that are not one to one, use what you have. Even if it’s small, if you can prove to your district or your parents or whoever is holding the purse strings that you are determined to use technology in your classroom despite the limitations, it’s going to send a message to somebody and when there is technology to give, I’m sure it will come to you.

No man is an island, and neither is a classroom teacher. Though I thought of some ideas for using the tech you have and even getting more, I would love to hear yours. Share something that will rock my socks off in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at at 8PM EST.

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