11 February 2013

Technology – Time Saver or Time Stealer?

When writing ‘About Time for Teaching – 120 time saving tips for teachers and those who support them’ I sent out a request to my teaching networks for ‘best tips’. Debbie Web who was the Information Technology Helpdesk Supervisor at a large College of Education, her cry of frustration raised an interesting point: ‘In my workplace, the academic staff are infuriatingly difficult to get to IT training sessions. “I don’t have time” is the common catch-cry. For some reason, academics seem to be worse at this than general staff.’

I wonder why that is? Does it apply in your environment as well? Isn’t it a bit ironic that some folk who teach our bright young minds find it a challenge to learn new and better ways of doing things? I understand that technology is probably not the sexiest thing for many academics: if something’s not in our area of interest it’s easy to block it out. However, the question I believe we need to ask, if we find ourselves in that category, is, ‘What’s my benefit?’

Nick Larkin who was from Hutt Valley High thinks the average age of teachers has something to do with it. At his school most teachers are in their late 40s or early 50s. As we know, many teachers have come late to the wild world of technology – it became an integral part of the business world sooner than the classrooms. For some it’s exciting, for others it’s terrifying, and of course there are those who just can’t be bothered.

Nick’s tip for success is: ‘Use the computer as much as possible. It’s the quickest way to get value from it.’

The glad news is, over time people are getting better at computer use. There’s one really encouraging point that drives most of us: ‘little and often’ is the best way to learn. Give even a busy person or reluctant learner one thing to learn and master and, as long as there’s some time-saving value in it, we will eventually make progress. If we could all learn one new thing a week, or perhaps a fortnight, how much difference would that make!

Some teaching examples

Email address lists save time

Set up groups of addresses so you can email a number of people simultaneously – for instance your syndicate or parents of a class. (Nick Larkin)

Do your templates work?

Enquire at the IT department whether those templates you’ve made available for the students to download and use are actually of any value – before putting them online. It won’t take long for even the least computer-literate of your students to find the faults. (Debbie Webb)

Get familiar with your environment

If you’re going to teach in a computer lab, visit the lab at least two days before teaching to ensure that the programmes work, your screenshots are up to date, and everything in your student material is actually what your students will experience in the lab. It gives you time to make quick updates if software has been updated, and to notify IT if something isn’t as it should be. It also ensures no surprises when the students are there – it’s very embarrassing to get there and find things don’t work, plus you’ll lose class time and control. (Debbie Webb)

Make sure you know more than your students

If you have online course delivery be familiar with how to use it from a student perspective and know where to find resources in it. They will have questions. (Debbie Webb)

Simplified planning

Rather than staring at a blank planning sheet each day, carefully timetable and set up your week on a template (created as a table) where you’ve already entered all the usual activities. For example: subjects, regular meetings, roster duties, sport. It is easier to cross out something than to start with a blank page.

And be specific. Rather than ‘Maths’ put “Problem Solving”. Rather than ‘English’ put “Speaking Activity”. Where there may be options place them along one line as such: “Group 1/Group 2/Group 3” or “Teacher/ Teacher Aide/Parent”. (Mark Hodges, DP, Caloundra Christian College, Queensland)

Use your computer to mark the roll

Have your class lists on your trusty laptop and as the students work, mark the roll and email it straight to the office. If you’re lucky enough to have a wireless internet connection you can send it immediately, but even so, the next time you connect online the email will go. Most schools don’t have internet in the classrooms, but at some stage in the day you’ll be near an internet connection and it will reach the office in a timely way. (Nick Larkin)





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