Three Keys to Staying on Track When Using New Tech in the Classroom
Inspiration has kicked in and you’ve built an arsenal of great technology-rich lesson plans. You can hardly wait to unleash them in your classroom. Sound familiar? Digital learning is both thrilling and challenging. Before you introduce the latest tech tool or a new gadget, it’s important to define a roadmap to help you stay the course. As I reflect on my own experience as a former teacher and technology consultant, here are three solid reminders to help you avoid abandoning the ship as you integrate new tech in the classroom.
1. ALWAYS START WITH THE WHY
Technology should never be used for technology’s sake. Why are you using the technology tool? Ask yourself, “What is the learning goal and will the technology serve to enhance, support, and extend the learning?” Consider Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model, which was designed to help educators evaluate how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice. If you are simply exchanging pen and paper for a Google Doc, does the tech change the learning?
Although the substitution level is a starting point, determine how you can move up the SAMR ladder, keeping your learning goal at the center of your decisions. For example, if you want to explore different cultures, instead of having students create pen pal letters in a Google Doc, actually connect with a classroom in a different country. Have students design interview questions and post inside a collaborative Doc to encourage real-time responses and commenting between classrooms. Don’t stop there. Let their answers become a script that could turn into a class-created video that highlights their cultural discoveries. Check out Kathy Schrock’s excellent resources on SAMR to support your tech integration journey.
2. BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
There’s nothing like having the “perfect” lesson plan go up in smoke, which can happen even when there is ZERO tech involved. When technology is introduced, it’s even more important to keep an open mind and remember that students love exploring new tech tools, regardless if it gets messy. Don’t define success based on the seamless functionality of the technology – you will eventually be disappointed! You may think getting 30 kids creating Adobe Spark pages in a single class period is completely conquerable. That is until you find yourself still trying to help them create accounts when the bell rings. It’s OK! Turn it into a teachable moment about perseverance. Consider creating a quick tutorial using Screencastify on how to get logged in for the next go-around. Post the video to your LMS the night before and get them excited for what’s to come. Just remember – digital learning should encompass learning, no matter the hiccups.
3. CONNECT AND GROW
There is strength in numbers! One of the best ways to stay the course with new technology integration is to connect with like-minded educators who are equally passionate about effective digital integration. Leverage Twitter to expand your circle, be inspired, and share your story. Get started by searching valuable hashtags like #edtech, #digitallearning, and #personalizedlearning to identify thought leaders and rockstar resource sharers. Learn more about using Twitter to expand your #PLN in our recent blog post. Don’t stop there. Pinterest is an excellent platform for innovative digital learning ideas. Check out Kasey Bell’s 50 Educators You Should Follow on Pinterest and start pinning your way to meaningful tech integration.
As with any new experience, the infusion of new technology in the classroom can simultaneously create excitement and trepidation. Remember that just because it’s the shiny new tech tool doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for the task. Seek first to serve your students with rich learning experiences.