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SUMMER FOREVER…or don’t we wish! It’s that time of year again! July 4th has come and gone, the back-to-school signs have appeared in our favorite stores, and those beloved summer days are quickly coming to an end.  In the midst of the back to school madness, it’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed with the planning and organizing. The new year is exciting and scary all at the same time! Think of it as a fresh start, a blank slate, an opportunity for change. As a teacher, I find myself reflecting on what I want to do differently. What do I need to change about my instruction? How can I design my classroom to become more student centered?  What can I improve upon to make this school year better than last?  TECHNOLOGY has been and continues to be the answer. It’s time for a digital redesign and for us educators to revamp our instruction to better support our students.

Creating a classroom that embraces technology isn’t always a smooth ride.  It can be pretty bumpy! Frustrating may even be the word that comes to mind. We want to use technology, but there always seem to be problems or glitches of some kind along the way. As a Technology Integration Specialist I receive many emails that sound something like this: “How did you use technology so easily in your classroom? It seems to run so well for you. What is your secret? Where did you begin? There are always problems when I use technology and then I want to give up.”  These are all great questions and comments. I too have experienced many bumps in my travels with technology. Experience has taught me this: EMBRACE THE BUMPY RIDE! A digital transformation is a journey.

Technology involves a new way of thinking, stop viewing it as just one more thing to add to your day or an additional item on your to do list. In a learning rich classroom, technology should be invisible. This means that technology should be seamlessly integrated into the project or content that is being studied, and not just stuck in at the end to achieve a technology component. Sitting students in front of a computer and having them follow a program isn’t developing 21st century skills. Twenty-first century skills mean students should be brainstorming, collaborating, problem solving, and creating. So where do you begin?  How do you get started? Here are a few tips to help jumpstart your digital redesign:

Expect Problems

Really? Expect problems is my advice?  YES! There are going to be problems that arise along your digital journey. I find this to be true especially at the beginning of the year. Students need to know how to appropriately utilize the learning tools and have clear expectations. Technology is no different from any other tool that you use in your everyday routine. When something goes wrong with a device, it’s no different than a student breaking their pencil or forgetting their notebook. Instead of getting frustrated, become FLEXIBLE. The ability to be flexible and make modifications to your instruction are important ingredients in any classroom.

Begin With Just ONE Thing

I always suggest to educators who are hesitant to use technology in significant ways to start with one thing. Develop one way technology could enhance the learning in your classroom. Allow yourself, as well as your students to become comfortable with ONE tool. If you fumble for a bit, don’t give up! Keep trying and use your students as support team. They master technology more quickly than we do. Embrace mistakes; a lot of learning happens through failure. Allow your students see you’re human. Convey to your students that it’s okay to fail and try again!

Educate Yourself

Technology is constantly changing and updating. Just when we feel comfortable with the way things are going, BOOM, a tool updates and now everything has changed. Just like your students need support in the classroom, we need support with our technology. There are many free online resources that are available to teachers to help guide them in their learning process. Utilize social media platforms like Twitter.. [try searching #iTeachDigital], Instagram, and Pinterest. Explore educational blogs…visit a few of our favorites: Edutopia, Free Technology for Teachers, and Edudemic. Attend webinars or professional developments through your district. Make it a priority to find ways for teachers to collaborate and share their experiences, including opportunities to discuss the stresses and successes with technology integration.

Just Do IT!

Change is a hard thing, and starting anything new can be scary. Stepping outside your comfort zone is never an easy task. Take the leap and begin changing the way your students learn and participate. Step outside your comfort zone and into your students’ communication zone. To them web tools and apps are just another part of the world they inhabit. Teach them how these tools also have the power to transform and develop the learning process. Creation requires students to be engaged in the content, explain their thought process, and share what they’ve learned.

So, as you sit on the beach relaxing or reading by the pool, soaking up your last few days of summer, I encourage you to ponder how you can use technology in your classroom and give your students the opportunities to develop 21st century skills. Embrace the journey! Let your students take the lead, put the learning in their hands,  and be amazed how much further they will take it!

 

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