Guest post by Mary Beth Hertz, technology coordinator at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber, Edcamp Foundation board member, Philly EdTech Meetup co-organizer, teacher, lifelong learner, and new mom.
Many teachers find themselves in a bittersweet situation at the start of the new school year. Often, their school has used the summer break to begin new initiatives or to make new investments in technology and infrastructure. This can be both a blessing and curse. If the school or district started the process during the previous school year with input from teachers, families, and community members, chances are that the transition will go smoothly.
But, if the decisions were made behind closed doors by a small group of people who work “downtown,” then the transition may not be so easy. The ease of this transition also depends on the amount of training and preparation teachers and administrators have been given. In the best case scenario, teachers have been offered professional development opportunities over the summer to prepare them for the transition.
Let’s just say, however, that you are not in the “best case scenario.” You walk into the first professional development day of the school year to find out that you and your grade partners are piloting X technology in your classroom this year and that the district spent “blah blah blah” amount of money on it and expect everyone to use it. Even if you are an extremely tech-savvy teacher who is unafraid of new things, this can be a daunting responsibility.
So, what can you do?
The first step in this process is inquiry—What does this technology do? What is the end goal of bringing it into the classroom? How does it compare or tie into your existing classroom environment, curriculum, and academic goals?
For instance, if you are being asked to pilot tablets, make sure to ask your team what the end goal is for how the tablets will enhance or (even better) transform learning in your classroom(s)? What are some of current practices that can be changed or improved now that students have access to these devices?
Next, if you can, ask to take the technology home with you so that you can do some research into the device itself. Pretend you are a student and explore the features, menus, tools, etc., to see what the tool can actually do. This can be done with devices, software, or even subscriptions to web-based services.
Finally, if you have not done so already, look for examples of how other teachers have incorporated these tools. Google it, search Twitter, ask your social media contacts, or look within your district. Sometimes you will be surprised to see that your district is actually offering workshops that have been poorly advertised.
Another step that many teachers do not consider is reaching out to the company itself. Many ed-tech companies offer free training or have free resources available to teachers who are using their products. Go to their website to search for resources. If they have a Twitter account, tweet them questions. Companies want teachers to feel successful when using their products and they are the experts on what this product can do, so sometimes, when all else fails, the company itself can be a valuable resource.
In general, if you are in the position of incorporating a new technology into your classroom and you don’t feel 100 percent prepared, don’t go it alone. By combining a mixture of self-directed exploration with collaboration and inquiry and seeking out resources, you can start the year feeling somewhat ready to shine. Day 1 (or Day 15 for that matter!) may not feel perfect, but this would be the case no matter how prepared you feel!
Thoughts? Comments? Other suggestions? Let me know @mbteach!
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