I love teaching, I love learning, and I love sharing with students and colleagues. And, I’ve been doing it for a decade or two (actually, almost three!). Long enough to remember that my “AV” course in university included running a “Gestetner spirit master” machine (never actually used one in my career…), the use of filmstrips, running a film projector without the film unwinding on the floor, and how to incorporate an overhead projector into my lesson plans. I also remember the first time I experienced the internet (I think I expected something to jump out of the screen), the last time I calculated an entire class set of marks by hand, the time my accountant father brought home a calculator ( the size of a modern iPad). So, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen lots of tech changes over my career, all of which I’ve attempted, some of which I’ve embraced, and all of which have provided a learning curve. So, as I finish my career in a leadership role, surrounded by a blend of seasoned professionals and eager and talented new teachers, I ponder the question of how we encourage our colleagues to learn, to try, to incorporate and to share meaningful integration of technology. Here are my thoughts:
1. Model Effective Technology Integration
As I am still in the classroom, I have the pleasure of being with students daily. Colleagues coming into my classroom will see students using both personal and school-owned devices for research, sharing and assignment completion), evidence of students using collaborative “Google Docs” tools for a variety of purposes, and a very well-appreciated interactive whiteboard. In our staff meetings and professional development, we consistently and purposefully use various tech tools which we hope staff members will be able to incorporate into their instruction. And we strive to use understanding and encouraging language with our colleagues so they feel comfortable asking for assistance to try the things we’ve used.
2. Engage in Continuous Scaffolded Professional Growth
There are tons of PD opportunities out there…full courses involving technology, afterschool workshops, short webinars and a plethora of ideas shared on social networking sites. I think the key to staying positively engaged in tech learning is to pace YOURSELF. Some people seem to grasp new ideas effortlessly and remember all the details, where others (those in my category) need a little more time to understand how a given tech tool might work and to imagine how it could work itself into a lesson or project. My advice is to try a couple of things at first in a few contexts in order to feel comfortable, and share what works with others…then they’ll be asking you!!
3. Use the Internet as your Personal Mentor
As I mentioned, Twitter is a great source for new ideas. Find a few “techie” teaching users and follow them. Try some of the ideas….many come with links to videotaped, step by step instructions- great for differentiated adult learning! If you have a tech question, Google it! I’ve been amazed by how many of my seemingly obscure questions are answered out there, usually with video/screencast assistance that I can watch three times if needed. (And share when you’re comfortable…someone may use something you post too!)
4. Learn With and From your Students
Accept that technology has lots of power in terms of engagement, presentation possibilities, and interaction, and also accept that there will always be something new out there. If a student is using something unfamiliar to you, get him to explain it to you. If a student presents something to his classmates using a new tech tool, publicly ask him a few questions about the tool so other students may attempt to use it too. Those “less techie” students in your classes will appreciate knowing that you are learning alongside them!
5. Learn With and From your Colleagues
I have found this one to be a growth area for myself. As educators, we sometimes feel vulnerable if we don’t possess a given expertise. As well, we can sometimes become dependent on others (those TECHIE TEACHERS or that one student who always seems to be a “tech-spert”) rather than trying to problem solve ourselves. We need to accept that we’re all on a tech learning spectrum. As I think of the line we use with students “ask three and then me…”- I think it is empowering for educators to give something a shot….play with the tool… Google search particular questions and then ask for help if needed. The questions we ask to those “tech-sperts” will be more focused, and we will have learned something that will be helpful next time.
As daunting as technology can seem, few of us would want to turn back time to stand in bank lines rather than visit an ATM, send away our film in hopes that all 36 of our carefully framed photos will have turned out or go back to our grandmother’s mercury thermometer which we shook and held at just the right angle to read the temperature. Similarly, our students want 21st Century learning experiences which engage them, encourage them to create, collaborate and celebrate their learning…often with the use of technology along the way, and certainly in a different format than we might have experienced when we were students. We need to offer them rich possibilities, encourage them as lifelong learners, and let them see that we are learning right along with them.
By Kathleen Galloway
About the author:
Kathleen Galloway is a high school administrator and Social Studies/Second language teacher. She enjoys professional development both as facilitator and participant, and holds a Masters’ Degree in Education, with a focus on Social Studies curriculum. Follow her on Twitter @socgall.