As a fourth grader, I patiently suffered through many monotonous school days eagerly awaiting my turn to journey back to the pioneer times of the mid-nineteenth century. Loading up my virtual conestoga wagon, I led four fictitious settlers on an adventure across one of America’s most storied routes – the Oregon Trail. Even though I typically died of dysentery within ten minutes, I learned two very valuable lessons:
Never drink dirty water.
One device (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc) can impact a classroom.
It would be great if every classroom was a one to one learning environment or at least had a class set of computers or mobile devices, but until that day arrives, we are left to use the technology we do have to our advantage.
The easiest way to utilize limited technology in the classroom is to embrace it as a resource for direct instruction. However, if you want technology to truly engage students, then it needs to be placed in their hands. Using a shared technology in small breakout groups can lessen the ratio of student to device. It could be passed around throughout the class period, shared via some form of rotation schedule, or used as part of a reward or remediation program. However you choose to use it, you will likely need a system in place for sharing the technology, but a little bit of hands-on learning can go a long way.
The ultimate goal of using your limited classroom resource should be to get as much out of it as possible and having students create their own digital content can be one effective solution. Design a collaborative group or class project that allows each student to add a page, slide, or comment or have each student create digital portfolio pieces throughout the year. Using cloud saving options will even allow students to save their work and access it (as well as add to it) from home. Many kids are willing to come in early, give up recess, or even stay late in order to do productive and engaging things with technology. A content creation station for video editing and podcasting can be a purposeful addition to your classroom.
Shared access to technology can work. Don’t let a powerful tool like a computer or tablet go unused just because you do not have one for every child. There are teachers who think twenty-five iPads can’t teach thirty students; one iPad can teach thirty students if incorporated in meaningful ways to enhance learning. However you choose to implement your limited technology, just be sure it is providing your students with a challenge. I always died on the Oregon Trail within ten minutes, but I kept coming back for more.