Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm not a EdTechie, but trying my best

I think the biggest issue teachers face when looking at technology is they feel inadequate.  Believe me, I know the feeling.  Every time I turn around, there are new apps to do this or a new program that does that. It is daunting to cull through all of these when you don't feel like a major techie at all (heck, its more daunting for us novice techies!).  Over the summer, I was asked to help write the "digital curriculum" for my course for the district.  It is the desire of the district to move completely digital in a few years. I was asked, not because I am super amazing with technology and can give some amazing ideas of how to incorporate it into a classroom effectively, but because I was the "content expert".  I must admit, what I did was far from stellar. Well, that few weeks looking over a variety of internet sites got me totally interested in radically changing my classroom. So, this year, I decided to start slowly integrating some digital curriculum pieces to see how they work.  Here is what I've learned so far.

1.  You don't have to be an expert in everything to move towards a digital classroom.

Like I already said, I am in no way a technie.  You can talk with my brother about hardware and software, and he'll understand most everything you're saying.  I'm not even sure I totally understand the difference between RAM and ROM.  However, that doesn't stop me from finding things and trying things with my students.  I'm not an expert, but there is definitely someone who is, so find them and beg, borrow and steal as much as you.  There are some pretty amazing educators who use tech in their classrooms every day that I only wish I could be like.

2.  The students are experts in the technology truly relevant to them.  Let them show you.

This is what I love the most.  I tell the students often that I do not know or understand all of the apps and websites and things that they spend a good portion of their live fixed on.  I like that I can let them explore and try new things with whatever they want to use.  Often times, I even ask them, "Hey, this is what I want to do, what are some ways I can do that?"  That empowers them.  My students know that I will never declare I am the only expert in the classroom, and that I often admit that I am not an expert about a lot things.  Giving them the chance to use what they want the way they want to get the information across empowers them in ways they've never been empowered before in a classroom.

3.  Try new things.  Even if they don't work, you will find something else that will work better.

I had a great idea of having my students work on a world religions project using Prezi.  The students were in groups covering different religions.  I thought that we could create a Prezi that every student in the classroom would access.  We were in the computer lab.  The students were working, but the more stuff they put on the Prezi, the more it crashed.  Students would hit the wrong undo button and clear whatever was done in the last few minutes.  It was a DISASTER!  The students were frustrated, I was frustrated, and I feel that the purpose of the lesson was lost.  It was unfortunate, but now I know a few things that I didn't know.  Yes, you can crash Prezi!  Yes, just because it is technology doesn't mean the students will love the lesson.  Yes, it is ok to admit you made a mistake in curricular design and the students won't think you're the worst teacher ever.  It has now become a running joke with my classes this that when we doing something using the computers.  Every period, they are begging, "Please, don't let is be another Prezi!!!!!"

4.  Don't just take an old worksheet, post it on a website and call it using technology.

The students can see right through that.  It is a start, but please don't think that is moving into the 21st century and using technology in an appropriate way.  I have to confess, this is mostly what I did for the "digital curriculum" for my district.  It is embarrassing now looking back and seeing what I came up with.

So, hopefully this can help.  I will be posting periodically about my journey into the tech world.  It is a scary place to be, but it is really exciting!  Thanks for joining me on my journey.