This fall, I will be teaching 280 tech-hungry students in a building without interactive whiteboards, limited electrical power, limited Internet access and just 10 Apple computers. Nonetheless, my students will learn to safely navigate the wild, wild Web; produce digital products (e.g. blogs, movies, podcasts) and take control of 21st-century communication tools such as Skype and Twitter. Read on for five fabulous quick fixes for teaching 21st-century skills in a low-tech classroom.
The so-called "digital divide" is no reason to prevent 21st-century learning; take a library field trip! September is National Library Card month and the perfect time to show kids how to access free computers and/or Wi-Fi (wireless Internet access) at their local library.
Tour the library. Distribute and review library card applications and allow groups or pairs of students to log on. Whether your local library has a 15-minute time limit or a two-hour time limit, students will love the opportunity to research a question or short project, play an educational game or read an e-book. Plan several class follow-up visits to tackle student questions and invite parents or grandparents to encourage family library expeditions.
Educators over the age of 30 usually don't have the time or patience to become masters of every program, website, or digital device. Put your tech-savvy students to work by allowing them five minutes, once or twice a week, to present their latest digital findings.
Read more about the power of tech-savvy student educators in my Digital Immigration Reform post.
If you have limited Internet access points in your school building (perhaps only in the administrators' offices), invest in a wireless Internet card for your laptop. The card will automatically search for the best network connection and allow you to access the Internet from almost any room in your building.
Worried about funding? Help technology students set up two cupcake sales to pay for the LCD projector and a wireless Internet card. (My average class cupcake sale usually nets about $220 per day.) Or seek funds at Digital Wish or Donors Choose.
Who needs expensive software? There are thousands of wonderful, free programs on the Web and my tech curriculum always includes freebies from Prezi and Common Sense Media.
See my post Win $25,000 for Your Classroom or ... Just Look Like You Did for more free tools.
What can 280 kids do with 24 outdated PCs and five inexpensive Flip camcorders? Make their voices heard, enhance their studies, and win $10,000 from Microsoft for their work! Classes of 25 students were split into teams of five, roles were assigned (cinematographer, editors, props master, actors, etc.) and educational movies were completed in a timely manner. Group projects enabled us to work successfully with minimal equipment and provided an important role for each team member.
Check out my posts Ready...Set...Revolution 2.0 Reporters!, Beat the Clock -- Capturing Stories of the American Civil Rights Movement or Easy Tech Tricks to Get Kids Vocabulary Crazy for detailed lesson plans for successful digital group projects.
Do you have lots of equipment? Split your teams into trios or pairs. Even if you have enough equipment, consider pair sharing. Digital pair sharing or cooperative learning allows students to view different ways to digitally complete a task (such as how the same function can usually be completed by pressing two or three different buttons on any device). This type of learning also reinforces concepts learned through discussion.
Comment! Please share your ideas for inexpensive, tech-savvy learning here.