Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to talk to about 50 new teachers about instructional technology.
As I prepared my talking points, I considered what I would have needed to hear when I was 23 and in the midst of my first year in the classroom. Here’s what I came up with.
Here were my closing tips:
Don’t fix things that work well – When you discover a new tech tool that you want to employ into your work (either instruction, assessment, or organization/workflow), don’t attack an area that is currently functioning well. Use the new tool to attack something that really needs some serious improvement. That way, then the roll-out inevitably falls short of your expectations, you are much likelier to be satisfied seeing an improvement. And you haven’t ruined a process that was productive.
Don’t try to do too much – Get really, really good at using one or two tech tools before you try to add to your collection. Sure, you run the risk of students saying, “Guh… we use Socrative ALL THE TIME…” But this won’t last forever. You’ll pick up more tools as you explore more. And it’s a big improvement throwing so many tools at your students that neither they, nor you, get really proficient at using any of them.
Be patient with your students – Don’t get caught up in what they “should” know how to do. In reality, as far as your course, they probably shouldn’t be expected know anything. And even if they’ve explored some of the tools before, you probably use them slightly differently than the last teacher. So, go ahead and assume that each tech tool will need a guided exploration BEFORE you can expect them to engage meaningful content with it. Mixing a new tech tool and a new bit of content in the same activity should be avoided whenever possible. Otherwise, you risk the tool becoming the END of the learning rather than the MEANS.
Ask questions – Find yourself a mentor in your building who will help you explore instructional tech pieces. Take advantage of your district coaches and know who you can reach out to at the county level. Make e-mail friends with these people. Demand to be mentored.
Network, listen, and read – Find a social media platform you are comfortable with and turn it into an non-stop educational brainstorming session. I use Twitter. Use it to get ideas. And then try them out. Talk about them with the teachers near you. Join local PLNs if they exist. (Folks around mid-Michigan can join #CapitalAreaEdTech). The time/energy demands tend to be fairly light and the potential upside is huge.
Don’t fall in love with specific tools – They are going to break your heart. That free tool you loved was awesome… until it wasn’t free anymore (e.g. Newsela). Moodle was IT! Until Google Classroom came out. (Apple is getting ready to unleash an iPad based competitor to Google Classroom, by the way.) You had just nicely gotten the hang of your students’ laptops when the school switched to Chromebooks as a money-saver. Listen… listen… These things WILL happen. It’s not an “if” situation. It’s a “when”. If you tie your professional heart to these tools, you are going to find their removal difficult to recover from. Instead, fall in love with the types of student interactions these tools facilitate. Then, hang on loosely to the tool. It is temporary, as much as we’d like to pretend it isn’t.
Have I missed any? Care to push back? Use the comments. Perhaps share an anecdote from your first year teaching. With the right support, we can keep our young, excited teachers in the classroom.