Tech Tips for Teachers

There have been two presentations at MacWorld’s Users Conference which have focused on using today’s technology to be a better teacher. The one I went to yesterday was about Web 2.0 and its impact on e-Learning. The one I just came out of was on Teaching the Cybernetic Teen. Both of these presentations provided some great tips about how teachers can make use of the way that kids communicate through technology today to improve the way they educate those kids.

Here are some tech tips for teachers to take advantage of:

- Offer multi-tasking opportunities. One thing that both speakers mentioned was that kids today are multi-taskers. They don’t simply sit down at a desk and do homework. Instead, they have a video on their screen and are chatting with friends on instant messenger and are checking their social networking sites for updates and probably have music on in the background, all while doing their work. Both presenters made a point of saying that this may be either good or bad but that it doesn’t matter either way because it’s a fact. Teachers who appeal to a kid’s inclination to multi-task will do better as educators. The key to doing this seems to be to learn about the different ways that kids learn and to employ multiple forms of technology to appeal to those different learning styles all within the context of one project or lesson.

- Appreciate games. Both presenters also mentioned that games are a reality of kids’ lives today. Teachers who don’t fight this but instead find ways to embrace it as a part of education will have a better teaching experience with their students. The first thing teachers need to do is to change their attitudes about games. As was pointed out at the Cybernetic Teen presentation, games (especially role-playing games) give kids a large number of skills. They allow them to test out those skills in a safe environment so that they can learn from mistakes that don’t impact their real lives. Start thinking about the benefits of gaming and you’ll be in a better position to use games as a tool of education. Second Life was mentioned as a tool by both presenters. It was pointed out in the eLearning presentation that you can use Second Life as a place to give lectures and get interaction going. It was noted at Cybernetic Teen that Second Life is really for adults but that they are starting to launch a safer-for-kids version called Teen Second Life.

- Make use of technology for disseminating information. The eLearning lecture pointed out that there are three major ways that teachers can disseminate information through new technology. The first is to set up a blog which allows lecture-type lessons that can generate conversation in the comments. The second was to use RSS feeds to gather and distribute information. And the third was to use wikis for both providing information and encouraging students to create information. In addition, it was noted that you can create your own videos and upload them to a site like Viddler to get kids more interested in your presentations. Video really appeals to kids right now so this can take the traditional lecture and make it apply to the modern student.

- Provide information about trusting your sources. One of the things that was a big focus today was the fact that the Internet may be a great place to get information, but it may not be. An important thing to be teaching in the classroom today is how to use modern technology to find trusted resources. It was suggested that kids today generally know to be skeptical of Google Search information but they don’t yet know where to go to get good information. This is a non-tech tool that teachers should be teaching their kids how to apply to the use of modern technology.

Teaching today requires that you be on top of technology. These two presentations were just the start of what technology means in education today. This doesn’t even touch on the specific applications that are useful in the classroom or the other issues that arise in a tech/education conversation. But these tips are a good start for generating better communication in classrooms today using the technology that kids are used to using.