Striving to embrace the digital classroom

Shawn Redwood
Teacher trainer, Cambridge English presenter … read more
Shawn Redwood
A frustrated woman holds her laptop computer above her head

Many teachers get excited when they imagine the digital classroom and all the things that can be done in it, at the touch of a screen. I had the opportunity to use an iPad when I worked in a school, but I really didn’t like the experience at all. I am more of a traditional chalk and board teacher, while still encouraging students to work in groups collaboratively.

There are two main reasons why I have not embraced technology fully.

Trust in technology

The first is the lack of a good Wi-Fi system in schools. We all know that the system can crash when too many students are using it to complete an assignment, or looking for information, and that destroys your lesson right away.

When something like this happens, I evaluate what can be done to find a solution. In one particular case, I was using a brainstorming app when the system crashed. Luckily enough, I had paid for the pro version of the app and was able to project what I had on my device onto the screen in the classroom. The students were still able to do the assignment, but not using their tablets. They had to copy what I was projecting in their notebooks.

Getting the best out of technology

The second reason for my resistance to using technology in the classroom is my own lack of knowledge about how to exploit technology fully to enhance learning. I know how to use a Surface, iPad or Android tablet to get work done, but I am still a bit shaky when it comes to implementing it in the classroom. I see technology as use of applications more than the tablet itself. Is the device really useful or are the applications the real deal when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom? I see the device as secondary and the application as primary, even though the two are clearly integrated.

Experimenting with technology

I am slowly beginning to use technology in my business classes. I go back and forth between my Surface tablet and iPad. I use them differently in the classroom. I use Surface 2 to show videos which spark a discussion in the classroom. I also use it to play online word games such as Word Drop and Text Twist with students to help them increase their vocabulary.

I use the the iPad differently. I use SyncSpace, an app which allows students to write or draw their ideas about a topic. Recently, when we read The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, I asked the students to write their ideas about the title as well as the pictures to see if their predictions were correct. We referred back to their writing a few times to see if they were correct. While we read the story aloud, I highlighted certain parts of the PDF so that the students could hear the audio extract on the iPad.

My next digital steps

This is a start for me and I am looking at videos online to see how others implement technology in the classroom. I am also reading articles in various newspapers and educational magazines to get more ideas. However, my best source has been going to conferences and seeing how presenters use technology in their presentations. There is still hope for me and I am determined to make my classroom more digital.