At the September meeting of The Education Technology Association of St. Louis (@etaofstl), Wentzville ed tech specialist Greg Lawrence (@greglawrence) had 5 teachers from his district share their experiences with managing the digital classroom. As these successful integrators of technology spoke, some themes emerged that I think are worth sharing.
Here’s how you can emulate them:
1: You don’t have to know everything about an app/web tool before trying it with students.
The days of the teacher as “sage on the stage” are long gone (or they should be!). Some teachers let fear of not being an expert on tech hold them back. Successful ed tech integrators know you can use a tech tool with students without knowing all the ins and outs of it. Even if a lesson doesn’t go perfectly, there’s a life skill to be learned with that, too.
2: Tinker time is not wasted time.
Students can become proactive in their learning if you encourage them to problem solve and allow them to tinker.Given the time and opportunity, students will pick up new tricks with tech tools, and, perhaps, even teach you a thing or two. One successful strategy to try: make a tinker project for a resource to get them familiar with and excited about that resource before using it for a bigger assignment.
3: Just because your students are tech savvy, don’t assume you can ignore tech instruction.
Personal technology use doesn’t automatically transfer to knowledge of tech for educational purposes. Successful tech integrators understand the importance of building tech competencies among their students. As one middle school teacher pointed out, if the next grade level’s staff can tell a difference between student tech skills based on which team the student was on, you know there are discrepancies. Find a way, not an excuse.
4: Value the rich experiences available at students’ fingertips.
Successful tech integrators do not see technology as “one more thing” they’re expected to teach, they value the real world applications for students. As one high school math teacher pointed out, the rich access to real data on the web reinforces what students are learning and makes the learning more relevant. Try this: Post short urls/qr codes around the physical walls of your classrooms that link to enriching content or video tutorials for students to explore and use Google Classroom to push links to kids online.
5: Embrace opportunities for professional learning and sharing.
Whether its the ability to give more timely feedback on writing assignments with Google Drive, quickly assess what students know with Kahoot, flip your lessons so you have more individual time with students or completely redefine a lesson, technology improves your teaching practices. Successful technology integrators know this, so they embrace opportunities for professional learning. At Wentzville, teachers can gain knowledge via leveled courses with the option for discounted graduate credit, attending tech mini-lessons on their plan periods or watching Greg’s 30 Seconds of Google videos. Being able to share lesson plans and collaborate across buildings was also cited as a major advantage of using GAFE in their district.
A big thanks to Greg, as well as Constance, Richard, Amanda, Stacy and Stacy for demonstrating attitudes that make tech work for you and your students!