The First Step In EdTech Integration? Connecting With Students


The First Step In EdTech Integration? Connecting With Students

by Rachelle Dene Poth 

You can always find a lot of discussion about the best ways, tools, and ideas for integrating technology in the classroom.

Educating yourself about the tools available and best strategies for integrating technology into the classroom is important to stay up to date with your profession. But where do you start? What’s the first step?  

Teachers may find themselves on varying ends of the spectrum of being technology savvy. Teachers who have taught years (or were 80s children like myself), have seen many changes in the world of technology from the entrance of Apple computers and programming in the early 1980s, to the start of the internet in the nineties, to cloud computing and other emerging technologies today. There will be more changes on the horizon.

I have grown up in the age of computing, and as a result, incorporating technology into my classroom was not something I was afraid to do–nor was it a seamless process either.  Risks are always involved when using powerful tools. With the new venture come many questions such as where to begin, how to begin, and best practices to support learning.

So where to begin? How comfortable are you with computers and web 2.0 tools?  For several years, I had been using some language learning games and activities, and had students complete projects using word processing and other presentation software.  Other than audio and video resources for my course, the technology use in my classroom was limited.  I had attended a conference and realized that there were so many possibilities out there for enhancing learning experiences and new ways to engage students, so I reflected a bit to figure out what I could add to my classroom that would benefit my students and bring about positive changes.  

For my classroom, it came down to what I have referred to as a “disconnect” between my students, our class and their access to vital resources.  I focused on finding something that could make a difference. I decided to start with finding a way to facilitate communication.

“Edtech integration,” I wondered to myself “has to start there.”

The Need For Communication Resources

There have been many times that students have come to me after a long weekend with questions about the homework that they did not complete because they did not understand it.  

And there were times when students missed class and appeared in front of me at the start of class, wondering what they missed in their absence.  These situations led me to find Celly.  Celly is a messaging tool.  When I started, it enabled me to send reminders to students, to receive their questions, to share resources, and to be available when the students needed (which often was later in the evening or during the weekend when their questions appeared).

So how did this impact my classroom? It began to eliminate the problem of the “disconnect.” Perfect! Integrating this tool into my classroom was the first step in a series of changes that I made that, it seemed to me, improved the learning of the students. That this began simply by creating a persistent connect made me feel better about my hunch. My students, at least most of the time, were getting help when they needed it.  

If this sounds like something that could benefit your classroom, try one of the many great messaging tools available: Celly, Voxer, twitter, or any of the dozens of apps that make this possible. Once you feel comfortable with your choice, then start thinking about another way that you can add to the learning experience in your classroom.

Think connections. Who am I connecting to whom or what, and why?

Another way to think about it is to start with a problem–time, organization, content delivery, etc.–and work backwards from there. Then find a tool to use, and start by taking that first step. Work with it a while and see the effects it makes in your classroom.  If it is beneficial, then start to think about other connections to make and problems to solve. You may find that your first choice is not the best, but you have to try it out; follow through and reflect.  

This means you’ll need to give it some time first. Any time we try something new, it can be a challenge and it can also be a risk.  Sometimes we are successful and sometimes we are not, but as educators we should also actively be take risks, face challenges, show the students that failure happens sometimes. Set a goal and work on it, and then take time reflect on the process. Keep wondering and continue seeking more information. Be curious. Be persistent–and model these behaviors for your students!

If you stay connected with them, and connect them to one another, it will be difficult to “fail.” Better news? Your teaching is now on display and amplified. This can sound daunting, but transparency is a straight pathway to collaboration and improvement.

The First Step In EdTech Integration? Connecting With Students; image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool