What's the recipe for using technology successfully?

Hi and welcome to my blog, particularly if you're coming to my talk at the Macmillan Teachers' Day in Zaragoza this Saturday, intended for those of you teaching 2nd and 3rd cycle of Primary (ages 8-12).

Rules of hygiene
In the session, I'm going to suggest that I'm not so much a teacher as a cook — I cook and serve dishes (lessons) — and that I'm also a doctor, a health inspector in my own restaurant (classroom), and that's the place to begin.

These are my own "rules of hygiene", which I follow with young learners (and in fact those of all ages):

  • Get permission Get written parental permission, in other words, before you start taking photos or posting things on the Internet
  • Ensure privacy Create a private blog, or use something like Edmodo; and explain that it will be private to parents — they're much more likely to give you permission if you do
  • Get some practice You want to get some practice before you take Web 2.0 tools like blogs and Edmodo into class, but it's just that — "some practice", to play around with the tools; you don't need to know all there is to know about them (which is probably impossible, and definitely not necessary)
  • Make some, but only limited use of technology You aren't there to use technology, you're there to ensure your learners learn; if too much technology gets used, it starts to take over from the learning. In a language class, what do you want: clicking or talking?
  • Do lots of things involving NO technology Carry on doing arts and crafts, drama, playing games and singing songs and telling stories without technology… though you'll also find that those things can also be done — sometimes — with digital tools
  • Don't YOU use the technology In fact, you're not there to use technology at all: put it in the hands of your learners and (a) you'll find it goes wrong less often and they're (b) happy using it and — let's be honest — (c) not bored watching you pffafing around trying to get it to work
  • Make it a shared experience Get your learners to share the digital things they create with each other, get them to comment on each other's work: it's much more fun, more motivating, more 21st century if they do, as that's what technology allows us to do nowadays.

Success with technology (and without)
How do I define "success" in a classroom, whether or not I'm using technology? I have a very simple formula, as you can see: if my learners are (1) learning lots and (2) enjoying it, then technology has been used succcessfully.

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