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Managing Technology:
Tips from the Experts

Do your technology lessons frequently turn into free-for-alls? Do you feel as though you spend too much of your time dealing with crashing programs, whining students, and missing equipment and not enough time actually teaching a lesson? Don't despair! The solutions may be simpler than you think. This month, the Education World Tech Team shares its secrets for teaching successfully with technology. Included: Thirty-three tips for managing technology use!

Sometimes the little things make a big difference! If your tech lessons too often turn into teaching disasters, maybe all you really need is a little professional help. The Education World Tech Team, a group of 50 seasoned technology professionals, shares 33 simple secrets for managing the minutiae of technology instruction.

  1. Always run through a technology lesson before presenting it to the class -- and always have a back-up lesson prepared in case the technology fails.
  2. Type directions for frequently used computer operations -- opening programs, inserting clip art, printing documents, and so on -- on index cards, laminate them, and connect them with a circle ring. Keep a set next to each computer.
  3. Have students turn off their monitors when you're giving directions.
  4. Appoint classroom technology managers. Consider an Attendance Manager, who takes attendance and serves as a substitute teacher helper when necessary; a Materials Manager, who passes out materials and runs errands; a Technical Manager, who helps resolve printer and computer issues; and an End-of-Class Manager, who makes sure work areas are neat -- keyboards pushed in, mice straight, and programs closed -- before students are dismissed. Invite students to apply for the positions -- and have them provide references.
  5. If you use Microsoft Word, learn how to insert comments into Word documents. Highlight a word or phrase, go to Insert, select Comments, type your comment, and close the window. When a student moves the cursor over that word or phrase, the comment will pop up. Comments are a great editing and motivating tool for kids. Use them to guide drafting and brainstorming and to help students peer edit and work collaboratively on group projects.
  6. If you have classes filtering in and out of a computer lab each day and have little or no time to set up between classes, arrange for older students to help. Even second graders can put in CDs and start programs for the kindergarteners who follow them. Simply end your lesson five minutes early and walk the older students through the process of setting up for the next class. They get technology experience, and you get peace of mind.
  7. When working on lengthy technology projects, print out step-by-step instructions. Include some that say "Save your work; do not go any further until you help your neighbors reach this point." This helps less-proficient students solve problems more quickly, keeps the class at roughly the same point in the project, and fosters collaborative learning.
  8. Make it a class rule that students can help one another but cannot ever touch another student's computer. That way, you can be sure that learning occurs even when students help one another.
  9. Teach students to use the Track Changes feature when editing work in Microsoft Word. Go to Tools, select Track Changes and Highlight Changes. Backspace over the last word in the sentence to be edited. The backspaced words will display crossed out. Then use the Track Changes feature to review, accept, or reject changes.
  10. Keep a red plastic cup at each computer. When students need help, have them place the highly visible cups on top of their monitors.
  11. Before students leave class, have them turn their mice upside down so the trackballs are showing. You'll lose fewer trackballs that way.
  12. Attach laminated cards to all portable technology equipment. Include school information as well as a list of any accessories -- batteries, cords, headphones, and so on -- contained in the case. Number each case, and keep a list of the numbers and assignments for easy tracking.
  13. If you're a language arts or foreign language teacher using Microsoft Word, teach your students how to use the Text to Table feature. Have them copy a poem or song into a Word document, highlight the text, go to Table, select Convert, select Text to Table, and hit OK. They should now see a one-column table with each line of the song or poem in a separate cell. Have them highlight the column, then insert two more columns. Go to Table, select Insert, then select Column to Right. Foreign language students can use the first inserted column to write a word-by-word literal translation of the song or poem and the second inserted column to write a more elegant, figurative translation of each line. Language arts students can use the first inserted column to explain each line of the song or poem in their own words and the second column to rewrite each line poetically. This feature can also be used in other content areas.
  14. Post a list of all your rules for technology use in a visible place. When a rule is broken, ask the offending student to read the rule aloud.
  15. Place different colored sticker dots on the left and the right bottom corners of each monitor. Use these to indicate which side of the screen you are talking about -- very helpful when using certain programs, such as the new Kid Pix -- and to determine whose turn it is if students share a computer.
  16. Attach plastic hooks to monitors to hang headphones on when they're not being used.
  17. Plug all speakers into a main power bar. Turn the bar off when you're teaching and turn it on when students are working. If the room becomes too noisy, turn off the power bar to get students' attention.
  18. Use a Video Out card to project a monitor display onto a television screen.
  19. When teaching a technology class, insert an unscheduled week into every six-to-eight week cycle. Allow students to choose a previously taught program to work with during that "free" week.
  20. Type PLEASE WAIT FOR INSTRUCTIONS on 8 by 11 papers, laminate them, and tape one sheet to the top of every monitor. Students flip the signs to the back of the monitor after you've given directions.
  21. Turn your classroom into a museum. After a lesson using presentation software, allow students to walk around the room and view everyone else's work. They might get some good ideas for the next lesson -- and finding something positive to say about other students' work teaches good manners.
  22. Store CDs for each computer in a black zippered case and place the case on top of the tower. Attach corresponding numbers to the case and computer.
  23. Create a folder in the Start menu and place any programs you use with students in that folder. Students never have to click Programs -- everything they use is in one folder.
  24. When working in a computer lab, assign each student a computer. Students can line up in "computer lab order" in their classrooms. Seating goes very quickly when they get to the lab.
  25. Keep keyboards clean -- and hopefully cut down on germs -- by always having students wash their hands before going to the computer lab or using classroom computers.
  26. Have each student keep a Tech Folder for storing ongoing technology projects, ideas for future projects, print outs, and other technology paperwork. The folder is a real time saver when students are heading for the tech lab.
  27. Always have students check that all applications are closed (to avoid costly crashes) and that the sound is turned down (nothing is worse than having 20+ computers burst into the KidPix theme song at high volume!) before starting a lesson.
  28. Organize students into five groups and assign each group a day of the week. Students can use classroom computers on their assigned day of the week -- to work on technology projects, take online tests, or write in their journals.
  29. When students are working on small group technology projects on classroom computers, divide the tasks so some students are working on the computers while others are working at their desks on another part of the project. Provide a sign-up sheet for the computers. When one group is finished using the computers, they must notify the next group that it's their turn.
  30. Set up teams of computer helpers, and assign each team a different room in the building. Each week, students must clean their assigned rooms, keeping the computers dust free and the monitors clean. You can also have students turn on each computers before class. I have a very needy special education student who presses the Enter key on all lab computers so the computers go on the network.
  31. Consider using the Herzog method of teaching keyboarding. You place caps on the D and K keys on the keyboard. The caps have raised bumps, so children learn to keep their hands in place by touch. This allows elementary students, who have small hands, to put their middle fingers on those keys. Whatever word processing program you use, teach students keyboard letters in ABC order; the way it make sense to them. Have them practice finding the ABCs on the keyboard with their eyes closed.
  32. If you're working on a network, ask your technology coordinator to set up a shared folder for Internet resources. Then, when you're planning an Internet lesson, simply save a shortcut to the Web site in that folder. During lab time, students can go to the shared folder, double click the link, and go right to the site without typing the URL. This saves time and stress for both students and teachers.
  33. Never assume you know it all! Offer a free pencil to any student who teaches you something you didn't know.
Who They Are

The Education World Tech Team includes 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed their best technology management tips to this article.



Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World


Updated 01/29/2013