Integrating technology in class for great results: 6 tips from an expert

MIE Expert Eileen Heller teaches her class of eager students.

Technology opens plentiful possibilities for students, but for teachers it can present a unique challenge. New tools should not only engage students and fit seamlessly into lessons, but also add value without taking away from the many “musts” on every teacher’s list.

Eileen Heller, Instructional Technology Trainer and Elementary Innovation Facilitator for Omaha Public Schools (OPS), is responsible for instructional technology training at 21 of Omaha’s 63 elementary schools. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE), she sees both challenges and opportunities in bringing technology into the classroom.

While recently working with a class of fourth-graders on Microsoft Teams (which OPS is piloting), Eileen saw first-hand how big a difference the right technology integration can make.

“The students were asked to share their favorite character and to include a gif, emoji, or customizable sticker to represent it,” Eileen explains. “The result was a completely engaged class, immediate feedback from peers, and the ability for the teacher to reinforce digital citizenship skills along the way.”

A student examines a class project through OneNote Online.

We asked Eileen to share her hard-won insights on bringing this approach into the classroom. Here are some of her best tips:

6 tips for transforming teaching with technology

 

1. Listen and learn from your students

 

We don’t do this enough. Every book, blog, or article of research I read keeps going back to building relationships and culture in your classroom to ensure success. This includes technology integration. Start talking, ask questions and, most importantly, listen and adjust. How are your students communicating and sharing ideas with friends and family? Replicate that in some fashion in the classroom for them to communicate their learning and collaborate with their peers.

2. Shift to a student-centered environment

 

Stand back and release control. There are a variety of student-centered pedagogies to explore such as inquiry, project and/or problem-based learning, design thinking, and culturally responsive teaching. The end goal is to give students ownership into their learning.

For instance, use creative discovery time when introducing a new tool. Instead of giving step-by-step instructions, let students discover and interact with one another. Imagine a class of students starting on Minecraft: Education Edition for the first time. Do you really need to be the expert, or can your students play that role?

3. Fall in love with the right tools

 

I remember the first time I saw OneNote at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in 2014. I immediately fell in love with how OneNote makes it easy to organize things in sections and pages. Be selective about the technology you use and learn how other teachers are using that tool – then adjust and replicate. Find your favorite tools that empower you and your students. A couple of my favorites are OneNote Class Notebook and OneNote Staff Notebook, the latter of which helps teachers and staff collaborate to work more effectively. (If you’re new to OneNote, check out these tips and this webinar.)

Two students work together on a shared computer.

4. Embrace instructional design

 

This is the core of all technology integration. No technology in isolation will move student achievement or increase test scores. It comes down to the teacher and how they design the lesson to use that technology as a tool toward learning.

When I work with a teacher on designing any learning activity, we start by collecting our ‘guiding resources.’ This includes our district pacing guides that lay out the curriculum with the standards and Best Instructional Practices Handbook. We also pull from ISTE Student Standards, Technology Skills Scope & Sequence, Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence, and more.

Two students put their tablets side by side to compare work.

5. Reflect and revise

 

The most powerful learning comes from reflection. This needs to be done not only by the student, but also the teacher, via dialogue, writing, or video. Reflect on the learning activities you provided and the technology you integrated to determine if it enhanced or hindered the learning experience.

It won’t always be a success, but the value comes in recognizing and adjusting. This goes back to listening to your students. Ask questions, check for evidence of learning and add your own insight to reiteration of your learning activity.

6. Showcase and share

 

Use technology to share student learning and your own lesson design with an authentic audience. Social media is not only one of the best ways to learn from others, but also a great way to showcase and share for the benefit of others. Don’t worry about being perfect. Students need to see that you will revise constantly – and that they should too.

One of my favorite ways to reflect on my own learning is through blogging. This can also be an avenue for your students. Be sure to allow the students to choose how they will showcase and share, whether it’s visual presentation, song, written piece, or any other creative approach. I love when my teachers connect with another class locally  (or globally) to share their learning via Skype in the Classroom.

To learn more from this extraordinary Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, visit Eileen’s blog, or connect with her on the Microsoft Educator Community, Twitter or LinkedIn.

To join Eileen and other innovators around the globe using technology to engage students and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow, become a Microsoft Innovative Educator today.