Ways to Get Started Using Technology with Your Students

By Ellen Ficklen and Carol Muscara

Great, you've decided that technology can help you teach your students. But then what? How do you move from the theoretical concept of "technology in the classroom" to making sure that your students end up with accurate, substantive, quality information on their computer screens? Here are three ways to get your technology feet wet—and then help your students take the plunge.

Try some of the top-quality, free World Wide Web (www) resources that are available on the Internet.

Elementary-School Level

  • Explore the Discovery Channel Web site (www.school.discovery.com). It provides lessons, information, and investigations to complement Discovery Channel TV productions. The Web site can also be used independently of the TV programs.

Middle-School Level

  • Investigate any of the topics on "How Stuff Works" (www.howstuffworks.com). This Web site explains in plain English, often with good graphics, how almost anything works. Your students will have fun exploring car engines or how mosquitoes "work," and everyone will learn.
  • Real-world issues such as the census, traffic, or the housing market serve as frameworks for problem-solving math simulations suited for grades 8 and up. Find the data and suggestions on (www.crpc.rice.edu/CRPC/GT/sboone/Lessons/lptitle.html).

High-School Level

  • Explore the Math Forum Web site (http://forum.swarthmore.edu). Its problem of the week will challenge your students, and Ask Dr. Math is a good way to get those knotty math questions answered by an expert.

Use the software installed on classroom computers.

Elementary-School Level

  • Using the spreadsheet Excel (which is usually installed by a school district on educational computers), build a line graph or bar graph or pie chart. It's as easy as entering the numbers for each section and naming the graph. You can print out the graph, too. Your students will want to make their own graphs on all sorts of things.

Middle-School Level

  • Outline your main points for any lesson using word processing or Power Point presentation software, then hand out copies to everyone in the class. Your students can add comments to your printed outline and pay more attention to discussing the concept than to writing madly. They will get a real idea about the lesson's important points and begin to learn the importance of an outline.

High-School Level

  • Create a database or list of important topics to be studied during the course and add resources so students can expand their understanding of the topics. Include some of the good "homework help" Web sites for students who have trouble with their work outside of class. Two suggestions: www.homeworkspot.com or www.jiskha.com.

Have some money to buy computer software? Here are some good bets.

Elementary-School Level

  • Give students a chance to find out about developing graphs and their meanings using Graph Club. This software has great color graphics that makes building graphs fun for everyone. Check out former teacher Tom Snyder's complete line of quality products, (at Tom Snyder Productions, www.tomsnyder.com).

Middle-School Level

  • Present a series of problems for students to solve that are based on data provided during a short scenario about a real event. You'll find them on Science Sleuths CD-ROM (at Videodiscovery www.videodiscovery.com). It provides excellent problem-solving experience, or it can be used for assessment. Joe Clark, the CEO, is a former physics teacher.

High-School Level

  • Give physics students the opportunity to explore velocity, acceleration, or free fall. One copy of Interactive Physics (from Knowledge Revolution www.krev.com) can be the perfect tool to discuss these and many other topics with the whole class.


Ellen Ficklen has been an education writer and editor for more than twenty years; she lives in Washington, D.C. Carol Muscara, who has over thirty-five years of experience in educational technology, has developed and helped carry out technology plans in school districts nationwide, most recently in San Francisco. She is currently working with the New Jersey State Systemic Initiative to develop technology resources correlated with the state mathematics and science standards. She lives in Gaithersburg, Md.

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