In my new role this year as a technology coach for the high school in which I work, I have found myself primarily involved in two separate but equally important activities: reflecting on and learning from my past challenges and successes with technology in my classroom and trying to motivate skeptical teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms.
Consequently, the following suggestions garnered from my recent experiences will hopefully provide some general ideas and guidelines to clarify the process for reluctant teachers, so they will be motivated to embrace educational technology and all of its inherent benefits.
- Attitude: Approach the process as if you were a brand new teacher. Use year one as a time to figure out how technology can be used in your curriculum, implement a few baby steps and begin accepting the fact that this is your new reality.
Use year two to begin expanding on what worked during year one, discarding the abysmal failures — of which there will probably be several — and possibly experimenting with one or two new technologies — be it a website, a strategy, an app, a means of assessment, or a style of presentation.
During year three, expect to gain some clarity on how you and your students can accelerate learning as you begin to see the forest through the trees. You may even have a minor epiphany or two.
- Pragmatism: In keeping with the “new teacher” analogy, beware of the inundation of ideas and suggestions from veteran teachers who may misguidedly try to ease your transition. Tech-savvy colleagues will be more than willing to share an inordinate amount of amazing lesson plans, ideas, strategies and technologies that have proven effective in their own classrooms
While the suggestions probably are amazing, innovative and engaging, as promised, understand your strengths and limitations. Along with every new aspect of technology comes a learning curve which needs to be balanced with the day-to-day teaching activities that have always existed.
With that in mind, catalogue the suggestions that are intriguing but unrealistic for immediate use. I would suggest using a site such as Diigo in order to organize and tag easily searchable resources for potential use in the future.
- Humility: With the ever-changing landscape of technology, and the daily demands of working in education, you will rarely — if ever — be ahead of the technology learning curve. By allowing students to use technology, they will have access to innumerable sources of information as well as formats in which to formulate and present information.
Furthermore, if you were to attempt to master as many presentation formats as humanly possible, better ones will soon emerge and previous mainstays will just as quickly become obsolete. With that in mind, try and be aware of what is available, let your students introduce new resources and formats to you, and join in the learning process side-by-side with your students.
- Adaptation: Just as it takes years of experience before most teachers feel as if they are even competent in the classroom, expect to experience similar feelings in regards to using technology as a tool for increasing student engagement, creating dynamic lessons, accessing more efficient and accurate assessment tools, and providing more timely, and meaningful feedback.
In order to ease the transition, make a plan and adapt as necessary. For instance, about two and a half years ago, I realized the amazing potential of using Twitter as an instructional tool that had the capability to expand student learning beyond my classroom walls. Due to a wide variety of circumstances, not until this current semester did I feel I could implement it as I had originally envisioned, so I am now just beginning to use Twitter with my students.
- Self-scaffolding: Understand the SAMR model of technology integration and use it to guide you as you increase the complexity of technology integration in your curriculum. Don’t be afraid to begin simply substituting with technology in your classroom simply to adapt to the concept of allowing students access to what was previously forbidden.
- If you try to jump straight to modification or re-definition, you will most likely create significant frustration for both yourself and your students, and will be reluctant to continue with a transition that offers significant promise.
Dutch Tessier teaches high-school English and media literacy and is the technology coach at Pajaro Valley High School in Watsonville, Calif. He recently presented at the California League of High Schools’ conference on Technology and the Common Core. You can follow him on Twitter @mrtessier33 and read his weekly blog.