Have you ever created a new activity, especially a digital activity and introduced it to your class with great excitement, only to have it flop, completely. You are not alone; every innovative teacher has had moments like that. However, knowing that everybody experience it, doesn’t mean that it won’t put you off doing it again in the future. The success of technology integration depends highly on creating eLearning habits.
Generation Z and creating eLearning habits
But, you might ask, aren’t today’s learners born with a device in their hand? Why should the maths/Afrikaans/science teacher spend time teaching them how to use their devices? And you would be right but also wrong. As a teacher you are never just teaching your subject, you are always also showing them how you want them to complete the task, how to complete an exam paper, the same goes with technology.
The fact that Generation Z has never known a world without computers does not mean that they will necessarily know what you want them to do. Kids spent hours on social media and playing games, most of them have only used technology for work a few times.
Mistakes when creating eLearning habits
The biggest mistake teachers make when they introduce a new type of activity is not giving clear instructions and repeating the instructions often. I used to get irritated with primary school teachers because they have so many “rules”. When kids get to me in grade 8 they drive me made with questions like whether they should draw a margin. What I did not understand was that primary school teachers are often the ones who teach kids how to do things, all these rules create an environment where learners know what is expected of them so that they can focus on the learning. But also so that when they get to me in high school they know what the expectations are and don’t need all those rules anymore.
When you introduce a new type of activity, spend time on writing down the instructions and expectations, put it up in your class, post it centrally in the activity and be consistent. I have a Google Doc with instructions for my most often used tasks that I can just copy and paste into any assignment. For example, I would add the following to every assignment in Google Classroom if I want them to put their answer in the comments.
- Click on the assignment to open it.
- Go to Student work
- Scroll down to the PRIVATE COMMENTS, type your answer and post it.
- Click on MARK AS DONE, so that I get notified that you completed the assignment.
The second most common mistake is that teachers want learners to do an activity that they have not actually done themselves. You might think you know what a activity is about, but unless you have done it yourself, you do not really understand it. I know teachers time is at a premium, but this is something you can not skimp on.
Three is a charm when creating eLearning habits
When you want to introduce a new activity/programme/apps, I have found that three is a charm.
- Introduce the activity/programme/app with a short fun task. Use some of the dead time in class, at the end of a lesson, or the last day of term, to introduce the activity with a short fun task. This gives learners the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the technology and your expectations and give you the chance to sort out any technical glitches.
- Do a low stakes activity. The activity should form part of your regular teaching, but with low stakes. A low stakes activity is never for marks, there are no time constraints – learners can finish at home or in the next lesson – and learners are relatively familiar with the content. I like to do the low stakes activity in groups of two or three, that way learners who are not so digital literate can learn from their peers. A low stakes activity also give you an opportunity to fine-tune your instructions and expectations.
- The real deal. Now you are ready to get going and apply the new activity in a high stakes scenario or with new content. Even though you have done the two previous activities, remember to be clear but flexible in your expectations. Research has shown that it takes up to six weeks of constant use to create a new habit, so I always set myself a term as a target to get myself and my learners familiar with a new task.
There will be a time when we no longer consider tablets, laptops, internet and apps as technology, but rather just the tools of learning. But that time is not yet. But don’t let that put you off, with a bit of planning and persistence technology will not cause chaos in your class.