A common stumbling block for us educators is feeling the need to be the expert in everything we do. With technologies being updated on an ongoing basis, it seems hard to keep up. This leads to uneasy feelings that can prompt us to turn away from technology and do things the way we always have. But with 2016 under way, this could be the perfect time to add exciting tools to your classroom. Just remember you do NOT need to be a master of technology to implement it in your class to great effect. Being willing to adapt to new ways of doing things sends a message to our students that we can all move through change.
Here are three strategies I use to help me address my ed tech goals:
1. Seek Out a Tech Pioneer
The best way I have found to advance in the use of educational technologies is to learn from others who offer advice and stories about their experiences. You can do this in your immediate community or find role models online. Reach out to educators in your school or district, including those in roles such as media specialist, computer teacher, and integration specialist. To find support in incorporating a new tool, are you able to co-teach a lesson with someone more familiar with the technology? And don’t forget an underutilized group of potential experts–your students! Recognizing your students’ expertise in technology and empowering them to contribute and assist has tremendous benefits including increased learner motivation and opportunities for peer instruction.
By tapping into web-based resources and social media, I have been able to connect with many outstanding educators and discover new tools and instructional approaches that are being used in classrooms to great effect. To avoid wasted time and frustration, I recommend going beyond Google and searching sites where educators are posting online, particularly websites that host reviews of educational technologies (for example, Graphite by Common Sense Media).
There are also many educators who actively share information online that you can access through classroom blogs, websites, and social media (such as Pinterest and Twitter). By finding a “pioneer,” or someone with the same goals, problems, and constraints as you, who is successfully integrating technology, you can learn practical ideas that relate directly to your teaching situation.
I am following dozens of education pioneers who communicate their experiences through posts that include stories, reflections, classroom images, and examples of student work.
There are so many opportunities to learn and collaborate with other educators! Take advantage of Edcamps and Meetups (typically free!), conferences, chats and forums, podcasts, and video channels that provide access to enthusiastic folks with great expertise!
2. Create new habits and use “triggers” to successfully incorporate technology into your practice.
Don’t leave it up to chance that you will “find time” to implement new tools on top of everything you do! Determine how you will you take action in small ways, and then choose your next step. Decide where in the course of your day you will engage in the new behaviors. Does it make sense to add the new task after a related habit? If you can create a trigger for a chain of events you will be more likely to adopt a new behavior.
For example, after I check my email I will read one blog post and bookmark online resources from the article. The daily habit of checking my email flows naturally into remembering to save useful resources in a place that I’ll come back to later while planning lessons or professional development plans. For the best chance of moving forward, tune in to what works best for you with the time you have, and incorporate new practices gradually.
3. Identify what you are trying to accomplish THEN choose an appropriate tech tool to use.
Take time to reflect on what you would like to improve or enhance through technology. Examine what it is that you are really trying to do. Think about the saying “Anyone who bought a drill did not really want a drill, they wanted a hole.” The desired outcome should drive the decision when selecting a tool. Rather than adopting a technology because it is popular or new, be mindful about what it will really do for you or your students. It is also important to select a user-friendly tool that will become practically “invisible” once the features become familiar. It will not be helpful if the technology is too complicated!
I hope that these ideas inspire you to take confidence in integrating technology in a way that works best for your class!