Ever asked yourself, “How am I supposed to integrate technology into my lessons without having any?” or, “How am I supposed to integrate technology when I do not even know where to start and no one is even helping me?” Well, you’re certainly not alone. Budgets are tight for everyone. There’s a good chance that, if you don’t have some of the latest and greatest technology out there right now, then you might not be getting it—but don’t give up hope. With a little effort and some minor expense, use these tips to take matters into your own hands.
LITTLE OR NO COMPUTERS, NO PROJECTOR
Like many educators, you probably don’t have very many computers in your classroom. Before you cycle the students through on those you do have, or fret over not having a projector to show them all something at the same time—you may actually have a “projector” right under your nose.
Got a TV in your classroom? See if it has video inputs on it. If not, the right TV shouldn’t be hard to find. In fact, people are throwing them out left and right for newer flat-screens and they’d rather donate one to spare themselves the $15 or more it may take in dump fees. Still no luck? Post an ad on craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org) and simply ask for one. Or even better, request a new one on Donors Choose, a site where educators can post requests for classroom items: http://www.donorschoose.org.
Alright—so now you’ve got the right TV. See if your computer has a video card on it that will allow video output. No luck? For a couple of dollars on Amazon, get one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Video-Card-TV-Adapter-Cable/dp/B000BSLSYI). Not the perfect solution, it’s workable, not a big hit on your pocket book, and easy enough for a novice to install. Unplug your monitor, plug in this device to where the monitor was plugged in. Now you’re hooked up—and technically speaking, you’re outputting your computer in “RCA” or “S-Video” format. Nicely done! As long as your TV has a video input, you should be good to go. Adjust your desktop resolution for easier reading.
For a bit more money and expertise, purchase a video card with the appropriate output and install that card in your PC. It’ll give you a clearer picture on your TV screen and allow you to simultaneously view the image in both places. As needed, buy the appropriate video wire to link the computer and TV (this is why I never throw out the wires that go along with old DVD players, VCRs and such; I always seem to have one laying around—and so might you).
Now, you’re able to share your computer with your students.
TECH INTEGRATION MADE SIMPLE
What’s next? Start integrating technology into your lessons, of course! A great way to start is through a little digital storytelling, which amounts to taking a few pictures and integrating them into a writing assignment.
Everyone these days has some kind of camera. Encourage students to bring in theirs. Make it into a field trip. Walk around your neighborhood and have your students take pictures of things that represent themselves. A single digital camera goes a long way. A lot of the newer cell phones have excellent cameras. Try putting them to good use for a change. They may even have video. Ensure you have a wire to connect them to the computer, or email the photos or video to someone. Get a decent card reader on Amazon for under $10 and you can easily transfer pictures taken from multiple devices.
Alright—now that you’ve got pictures, make a slideshow or even a movie.
It’s easier than you would think. Most Windows-based PCs already have Windows Movie Maker. With a little practice, you can fairly quickly make a decent movie. Don’t know where to start? Tutorials on YouTube will move you forward. Microsoft offers Photo Story which is a bit easier to use than Windows Movie Maker. There are a ton of websites such as Animoto where educators and students can build digital stories online using pictures and video.
Once the video is created, share it using a site such as Glogster — a website that allows educators and students to create GLOGS, which are essentially online multimedia posters with text, photos, videos, graphics, sounds, drawings, data attachments and more. There’s a free and premium version. The video could also be included in a presentation with Power Point. No PowerPoint? No worries. Use Prezi to make great online presentations for free.
Extend a story you are reading. Have students tell what would come next if they were writing it using an online comic strip editor such as ToonDoo or Pixton — or even make an animation using something like GoAnimate or ZimmerTwins.
In fact, I could go on for hours. How did I learn of all of these websites? I joined a social bookmarking website such as Diigo, where groups can be formed and where I learned what other educators were sharing as well.
But let’s go back to that cell phone for a second.
How about asking your students to take out that technology they carry around with them daily and ask them to use it in the classroom?
If they have a smart phone, encourage them to use one of the many great apps for education that are out there. No smartphone? Ask them to call someone. For example, teach about weather by asking your students to call someone in another state and ask them what the weather is there right now. What will it be later on today? Couldn’t this also be an excellent lesson in time zones? How about an educational scavenger hunt like this using cell phones? Collaborate with other schools and text for academic purposes. Remember when we were little and did “pen pals”? Isn’t text the new way to do that instantly? Try using Cel.ly or Pulse.to as a way to get started.
So what if right about now, all of this is overwhelming you or you simply don’t know where to start? Well, let me ask you: Have you joined a Professional Learning Network (PLN)? Have you reached out to your peers for help?
So many of us are in the same boat as you are. We have limited resources and no one to help train us on how to use them. This is where you need to take matters into your own hands. Join PLNs on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or even start you own using Ning or any other site out there. Once you join one of these PLNs, don’t be afraid to post and ask questions.
Remember, there is strength in numbers: so many educators out there are just like you. They don’t know where to start. There’s no help. They don’t have all the tools. But you can reach out. You can ask others for ideas. Share some great ones that have worked for you. Become active. Sit in on webinars, listen to podcasts; before you know it, you’ll be an edtech guru blogging like I am, sharing what you know that works, and helping others get a hold of how to best integrate technology into education for themselves.
Let me be the first to invite you to join me and thousands of fellow educators out there as we look for ways to best integrate technology in education. Join us today and help us grow together as we learn together on Technology Integration in Education.
Greg Limperis is a Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., who founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.