Technology is a powerful tool for promoting teaching and learning at any grade level. However, like other educational tools, teachers can use technology inappropriately. What questions should teachers ask themselves as they consider using technology in their classroom? What resources support student learning? This article provides five tips and various resources for teachers’ effective use of technology in their classrooms.
- Use technology purposefully.
The primary tip to guide your practice is to use technology for intentional purposes, not for “technology’s sake” (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media Center, 2012). When thinking about technology, ask yourself, “Will technology help students meet my lesson objectives more effectively?” and “Will technology help students better understand the lesson content?” (Jung & Conderman, 2015). Do you want students to collaborate on a project, increase reading fluency, or practice skills? Answering questions like these helps you select appropriate resources. Remember, start with the end objective in mind.
- Use technology to support diverse learning needs.
Teachers can use technology to create an inclusive learning environment where every student experiences success. Text-to-speech tools provide student access to curricular content. Features with different reading levels, skill complexities, and languages meet diverse student needs. Several tools in the Resources below differentiate instruction for English language learners, students at different academic levels, and students with special needs.
- Use technology to promote active engagement.
Technology should not replace student interaction with peers or teachers (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center, 2012). Leading a discussion before, during, and/or after a video or online activity supports whole-group interaction, maintains the teacher’s facilitative role, and helps students co-construct their knowledge by sharing thoughts and recognizing different perspectives. Students can engage with peers through online flashcard platforms such as Quizlet (quizlet.com); digital games, short, animated videos such as Brainpop (brainpop.com), and interactive study guides. Students can collaborate on projects using programs like Padlet (padlet.com).
- Use technology for assessment.
You can use technology for numerous assessment purposes. Online resources or applications such as Seesaw allow students to take photos, draw, and record videos and voice. Students can record their reading of a book and submit it for later assessment. Use digital cameras to collect and document student progress over time to share with families electronically or in person. Kahoot (Kahoot.com) helps teachers conduct formative, class-wide assessments in a game-like format. Electronic gradebook systems store and compute grades efficiently.
- Consider ethical implications and school policy.
As technology increases, so does our responsibility to use it ethically. Use personal technology, such as smartphones, wisely in your classroom. Students are distracted when teachers use them to check emails or read and send texts (Feeney & Freeman, 2015). Avoid posting student photos or sharing confidential information. Always maintain a professional social presence. Carefully monitor students’ activity and use with technology, following recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) and the Academic Academy of Pediatrics (2016). Learn and follow your district policies regarding the acceptable use of technology in and out of the classroom.
Teachers assume a critical role in creating an environment in which they can use technology effectively to support student learning. These five tips and the Resources below will guide you as you create lessons that engage students, differentiate learning, and provide assessment data you can share with family members.
By Myoungwhon Jung, Greg Conderman, and Katelyn Gaul
Dr. Jung is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University. His research interests include early childhood mathematics instruction and technology for young children.
Dr. Conderman is a Professor of Special Education in the Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University. His research interests include co-teaching and effective instructional methods for inclusion classrooms.
Ms. Gaul is a kindergarten teacher at Hawthorn School for Young Learners in District 73 in Illinois. She also works with the social science curriculum and Crisis Prevention Institute teams. She recently graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.
Academic Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5).
Feeney, S., & Freeman, N. K. (2015). Smartphones and social media: Ethical implications for educators. Young Children, 70(1), 98–101.
Jung, M., & Conderman, G. (2015). Using digital technology to support mathematics instruction. Young Children, 70(3), 64-69.
National Association for the Education of Young Children & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. (2012). Technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8.
World Health Organization. (2019). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age.
Resources for Teachers
The Math Learning Center: Free mathematics applications that allows K–12 students to use virtual manipulatives.
Tappity: Interactive lessons on various science topics for K–5 students.
Visual2Go: Allows teachers (and students) to use sample visual cards and create their own.
Educreations: Helps K–12 teachers create interactive lessons by adding images, videos, and narration.
Epic: Digital library for students (age 12 or under) with audio books and videos.
Seesaw: Learning platform for meaningful student engagement.
Story Creator: Allows students to collaborate to create stories from their digital photos or drawings.
Classroom Communication With Students and Their Families:
Virtual Field Trips:
National Museum of Natural History