Ed Tech

We’re not 1:1 — 6 ways to get classroom devices

Access to technology can bring any techy teacher's best-laid plans to a screeching halt. Here are some ideas for getting that game-changing technology in your classroom. (Public domain photo via Unsplash.com)

Access to technology can bring any techy teacher’s best-laid plans to a screeching halt. Here are some ideas for getting that game-changing technology in your classroom. (Public domain photo via Unsplash.com)

Whole-school 1:1 device programs — where every student has a device, often the same one — seem to be added in droves every new school year.

More and more schools put devices in every student’s hands (and sometimes, TWO devices in every student’s hands, called a 2:1 initiative). Many students still lack access, often due to lack of funding, lack of leadership or lack of vision.

I’ve heard so many teachers say, “I’d love to try some of your ideas to integrate technology, but we just don’t have the devices to make it happen.”

These are usually the kinds of teachers that would do amazing things with those devices — those that would create memorable learning experiences that could change students’ lives.

They feel stuck. They feel locked out.

There’s hope.

Even if you’re in that position — wanting to create some dynamic learning opportunities with game-changing technology — some creative thinking and work can get devices into your students’ hands.

Here are six ideas that can help bring devices into your classroom. (Note: Before starting on many of these ideas, checking your school/district policies and having discussions with leadership are recommended.)

1. Start a smartphone drive — Often, smartphone users are waiting anxiously for the day they can upgrade their phones to a newer model. When that happens, the old models often end up in a closet or drawer never to see the light of day. Parents are often very happy to help the school when able, and this is an easy, quick win for them. Ask families and others in the community for a donation of old smartphones that are still usable. (Be sure to ask for the charger cord, too.)

What can you do with a used smartphone? Well, without activating them to a cellular account, you can …

  • Connect them to the school’s WiFi and browse the Internet
  • Download apps to use from the App Store/Google Play/etc.
  • Take photos and video and edit them on a free app like Video Shop
  • Do quick formative assessment with sites like Formative and Kahoot!
  • Create augmented reality experiences using tools like Aurasma

2. Start a Donors Choose campaign — Would parents and other community members donate some money to help add some devices to your classroom? You’ll never know until you ask! Many teachers have started campaigns on Donors Choose, a site that helps teachers collect donations and purchase for their classrooms. And many of those teachers have been funded at levels that they never imagined. Find 12 tips for funding classroom projects on Donors Choose in this post, and hear Donors Choose founder and CEO Charles Best give suggestions in this podcast interview.

3. Borrow from others in your building or district — If a few devices are available in many rooms, you might consider pulling several teachers together to pool their devices from time to time for projects or certain class activities. It would require some organization to remember what belongs to whom and when to borrow and return them. You’ll know best what’s available in your school/district and who might participate, so if this sounds like a viable option, give it a shot!

4. Find and apply for grants — Money is available to schools that want to put devices in students’ hands. In my area, many counties have community foundations that have money to donate to worthy non-profit causes. Organizations like EdTechTeam (which hosts Google Apps summits) help classrooms purchase devices. EdTechTeam’s program funds class sets of Chromebooks or Nexus tablets. (Click here to visit the application form.) Here’s another place to look for grants for classroom technology.

5. Use what you have creatively — I’ll often hear that a handful of devices won’t do what a teacher wants to do. I’ve had success in working students through devices in groups or rotating stations. My students were able to Skype in small groups with students in Valencia, Spain, using six iPads. Many teachers make this happen in splendid fashion every day, but it’s worth mentioning here to maybe encourage you to revisit this idea. If you don’t have the set-up you’d like yet, think of ways to create that set-up for small groups of students at a time.

6. Make your voice heard — Sometimes, a little influence will go a long way. Teachers can get frustrated because they don’t think their opinions and ideas are taken seriously. But that’s the way it starts sometimes. Margaret Mead’s famous quote is fitting here: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Leaders might not get excited about leading a device purchase initiative until they hear the exciting ideas you have to implement them. Your ideas might be the springboard the program needs to get off the ground!

Of course, technology and new devices aren’t going to improve learning by themselves, and purchases without vision is what Alan November calls a “spray and pray” approach in this post … “‘spray’ on the technology, and then ‘pray’ that you get an increase in learning.” Technology in the classroom is only as good as what you can do better with it than you could without it.

But if you have great plans and your lack of technology stands in your way, this could be a good starting point. And it could be just what your students need to open their minds and change their future.

Real change is slow. It can be discouraging. But it’s worth it.

[reminder]Do you have a story about getting devices for your students? Know of any other resources that educators could use?[/reminder]

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