By Jessica Sanders
The latest edtech headlines read, Re-Think Your Technology Budget Practices and Affording the Classroom of the Future. Yet they don’t report the good news—a low-cost, tech-integrated classroom is possible; and, no, you don’t have to illegally download lessons or settle for a limited version of your favorite program.
When you broaden your search for educational technology, start with a few small steps and think outside the “edtech” box, you’ll find that there are plenty of low-cost or free options available. Here are the tips and tools you need to build a low-cost, high-tech classroom.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about technology in the classroom? Perhaps you paint an idyllic picture of children holding iPads, kindles tucked nicely into the reading corner and a teacher up front projecting the day’s lesson onto a smart board. It all sounds expensive, right?
In this case, yes. But it doesn’t have to be. Educational technology encompasses a vast marketplace of tools, resources and programs—many of which are relatively inexpensive. For example:
Open Source Software: This is often referred to in the academic world as open source education software and allows teachers to use high-quality software for little to no cost. It’s important to note that not every open source program
is legitimate. Check sites like KhanAcademy and Learner.org for high quality games and software.
YouTube Videos: 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute—and a surprising amount of that is educational content. Use this list of 100 best YouTube videos for teachers, from SmartTeaching.org, to get started.
Blogs: Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Anchor—the list of free blogging platforms could go on and on. Use a blog to connect with students and parents, share insights with other teachers, or spotlight student work. Allow students to upload their projects and post questions to make it a valuable classroom tool.
You don’t need to create a fully integrated digital classroom to reap the benefits of educational technology. Start small, with one lesson or one subject. For example:
- Use the free Google Earth website to make your geography lessons more interactive and exciting.
- Sign your class up for Whooo’s Reading, a web-based tool that allows teachers, librarians and admins to follow students’ independent reading, track standards-based mastery, and motivate students to read more every day. Teachers can purchase for $15/month or schools can pay on a per-student basis.
Think Outside the Box
Programs like Google Docs or games like Minecraft weren’t made for the classroom but can still be valuable. Broaden your search for tech tools and you may be surprised to find plenty of inexpensive options that are just as effective. A few inexpensive gadgets, websites and apps you can use in the classroom are:
Mini Projector: $182 – This is a small, simple projector that you can use to cast videos and images onto a wall, whiteboard or screen in your classroom.
Animalines: Free – Players must match pairs of animals together, similar to the traditional game of memory. This online game is geared toward younger children and can be an effective tool for teaching about animals and working on memory skills.
Prezi: Free – Teach lessons to students with this modern, online presentation builder. The images, videos and text zoom around the screen as you move through the lesson, making it interesting and exciting for students.
Expand to Lessons Across the Board
Focus on which lessons and subjects could benefit the most from technology. Perhaps the newest math software is wildly expensive, but what about programs or apps for reading or history? Subjects like these have excellent budget-friendly options and often make these topics easier for students to understand.
Educational technology doesn’t have to be expensive. When you broaden your search and utilize tools outside of the academic world you can create a high-tech classroom on any budget.