For a long time, technology within education has been seen in a negative light, as a distraction rather than a tool for learning. Many view technology as a threat, fearing loss of control. Others simply consider it too much ‘hassle’, or too difficult to manage. To celebrate Connected Educator Month, we want to to provide educators with the ultimate guide for professional development, exploring digital learning as a step in the right direction, rather than an obstacle to overcome.
10 Steps to Becoming a 21st Century Educator
While you may not know it yet, you’re living in a new age of connected educators. Join Twitter, and use this as your base, your personal guidebook. Begin by finding some of the top education chats, and following the people involved. Soon, you’ll be swarmed with outstretched arms looking to take your hand and guide you along. If you’re tired of waiting for others to come to you, take to #NT2T (New Teachers 2 Twitter) for connected educators and introduce yourself as a newbie. The support you receive will blow you away.
Once you’ve found your feet on Twitter, start exploring what’s happening. You’ll soon find that there is an incredible amount of support at your fingertips through educator blogs. Begin by reading the articles that people in your network are sharing, or simply check out this list of influential bloggers, and find the ones that interest you.
Once you’ve gained more confidence using Twitter, start getting involved and showing what you have to offer. Begin sharing your expertise and interests by Tweeting what interests you, sharing material that reflects your personality and emphasises your reasons for joining the connected educator movement. Once others begin retweeting and favoriting your content, start following them! You’ll soon see your PLN expand and evolve as you begin to get noticed.
Fishtree is an intelligent learning platform that allows you to manage instruction, run your classes, and share lessons and resources with other teachers globally. This is a great way to begin connecting with other educators with similar needs and interests, and building up a network of resources!
Now that you’ve mastered the basics of being a connected educator, begin focusing specifically on education technology. Start zoning in on #EdTech tips, guides, visuals and tools, following your favourite sources as you go along. Then, join in on one of the many EdTech chats, and have your say. You’ll quickly begin finding endless resources aimed at helping you get comfortable with technology in the classroom. Our 10 Steps to Conquering Teacher Technophobia is a good place to start!
On the various Twitter chats, you’ll begin to hear a lot of talk around popular EdTech trends. Even if you haven’t a clue what anyone is talking about, don’t simply turn away. Begin researching these trends and find out which ones might appeal to you, and might be possible with your resources. If you want to know more or are confused about anything, turn to your Twitter community of connected educators and ask for help. Remember, they have all been where you are at one stage or another!
The key to becoming a successful 21st century educator is to take it one step at a time. Use your Twitter community of connected educators and take their advice. They will all say the same thing: “Don’t try to do it all at once.” Begin by experimenting with one piece of technology during class time and build it up over time. Digital tools should help facilitate better learning, not hinder it. Get comfortable with the basics before being more creative.
Another key to really getting comfortable with technology in the classroom is reviewing every lesson you attempt. After each, take the time to assess what aspects of the lesson worked, and what didn’t. This will help you to see exactly what type of technology works for each class, and how you can make it work even better next time. While at first, this may take some time, you’ll soon find yourself spending less time preparing than ever before.
You don’t need to be a writer to become a blogger. In the world of connected educators, a teacher’s journey with technology is a number one best-seller! It can be difficult to define your thoughts clearly online, especially when restricted to 140 characters. Blogging is a way to share even more with your new-found friends, delving deeper into your experiences. Don’t forget the abundance of teachers still lingering on step number one, craving your guidance!
#9 Keep Learning
This is one of the essential ingredients of a successful teaching career. Once you stop learning, you stop enjoying it… It’s as simple as that. As long as you remain open to change, willing to try, and stay connected with your new community of educators, you will not only conquer your technophobia, you will rekindle your love for teaching, and even form new relationships with your students by learning alongside them. Experiment again and again using the ideas of your community, and your own, until you get comfortable. Then, try something new. Learning is a never-ending cycle, enjoy the ride!
#10 Push Boundaries
Many would simply say, find your comfort zone and stay there. But that’s not the job of an educator. Educators are innovators, people who push their own boundaries on a daily basis despite the barriers often preventing them from doing so. Once you have begun to get comfortable with technology, push yourself a little further. Try something new, flip your class, change your classroom dynamics, bring social media into your teaching, change your mindset… If you don’t know where to begin, take the pressure off by using Fishtree as a way to facilitate your efforts.
Technology is only one small part of what 21st century educators are doing, and that is reimagining education. Through these simple steps, you have become so much more than an educator. To those with whom you share your wisdom and experience online, and to those with whom you’re learning and teaching every day within the classroom, you’re a leader, an influencer, an innovator, an inspiration, a mentor, a friend. It takes courage to take the first step, so consider this a great achievement, and encourage others to do the same!
About the author:
Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.