When it comes to educational technology, the last five years have seen exponential growth. At times it can be scary to see just how fast things are changing. Because of these factors, trying to integrate technology can seem very daunting for any teacher.
What works? What doesn’t work? Where do I start? What if the students know more than me with technology? What if I fail? I’m not tech-savvy. This takes too much time.
These are all legitimate questions and statements. If you’re reading this blog post, you may not be asking these sorts of things as mentioned above, but I bet you know of people that do. Maybe you were once one of those people. Regardless, we have to recognize that just like our students, teachers ability to integrate tech and do it well is all over the spectrum, so I have come up with a list of things to help any teacher at any level when it comes to integrating technology in your classroom. There are thousands of lists out there dealing with this topic, but the list I have developed simply comes from my own experiences. If you’re a teacher at the beginning stages ready to dip the toe in the water, this can be a great starting point. If you’re you constantly brining your A game when it comes to edtech, this can be a great reminder to you.
1. The way you start determines EVERYTHING.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor should the technology you integrate. Because of the vast expanses of the edtech world, we all feel the urge to do it all starting on Day One. It never fails. We go to a conference or PD event in our district only to come back trying to implement everything we have learned only to give up on it shortly. It’s either that or we become so overwhelmed, we don’t even take the first step. The key is to start small. Otherwise we become the jack of all trades, and masters of none. Even if you are consistently using technology in your classroom, make sure all the other components feel seamless before adding more to your table. I feel that this is one of the biggest mistakes that we make in our classrooms, and I can honestly admit that I have made this mistake more than once.
2. Always consider academic content over the device.
Content, content, content. Many times we put the cart before the horse. We look at the device and try to figure out how to use in the classroom, when we really should look at our content first and look at ways we can use technology to enhance the classroom. The technology really doesn’t become a tool until we fill it with content. It doesn’t work vice versa. To build on the point, check out this graphic:
The danger in putting the device first is that often times it’s the content that can become compromised like putting a square peg in a round hole. When we consider the content (along with the learner) first, then we can begin the process of possibly modifying our content and instructional practices so that we utilize the tools to bring content alive and interact with it in ways that we have not before. That leads me to the next point…
3. Technology should have a relative advantage.
If there isn’t an advantage of using the technology, then why are we using it in the first place. If we can take away the technology component of the lesson and it doesn’t change the outcome of that lesson, it’s time we reflect on reason(s) we are using technology in the first place. Technology should allow us to do things we could never do with paper and pencil. Does that also mean that we throw out paper and pencil? Absolutely not because there is merit in using paper and pencil, and there will always be a place for it. We just have to be smart about how we use technology. This also applies to efficiency. Technology should allow us to be more efficient. Sure, there’s always a learning curve up front with technology, but in the end, it should make life easier. Plain and simple. If it’s not, evaluate whether or not you have exhausted all possible resources within whatever technology you are using. How many times have you been around someone (or been that person) who said, “I didn’t know that existed with ______,” or, “I didn’t know you could that with ______.” Folks, sometimes we have to admit it’s operator error, so become sharp with the things you use. If you need help, surround yourself with those that can help either in your building or (commercial time) by creating a PLN.
4. You will fail…and fail hard, but failure is part of the learning process.
Failure means something to me, and it should you, too. It means that we are trying to progress. It means we value growth. The best thing I’ve heard from a teacher in a long time was, “I’m not 100% comfortable with it, but I’m willing to try to with my students.” Do you think that guy failed? You betcha, but hopefully in his case, he understands, like you should, that failure is just part of the game. Come on guys, don’t we all have to come to some understanding that we won’t win at everything? Victory for Monday doesn’t ensure victory for Tuesday. It’s like someone said, “It’s not how hard you fall, it’s how well you pick yourself back up.” The best piece of advice that I give you is that when you fail, reflect. Always evaluate the failure and ask yourself some questions. If you’re not sure what to ask, here are a few I often ask myself (and some are hard questions to answer):
- At what point did I notice failure? (If I didn’t notice it until the end, can I trace it back to the root?)
- Are there any factors that could have been changed to prevent the problem?
- If I could reteach that lesson, unit, etc., what would I change?
- Hard question alert: Was I fully committed to seeing the integration through?