Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tech is NOT the solution....Wait what?


     Yea I know. If you are reading this you are saying, "But Michael, you are using tech right now!?Don't you use tech ALL the time??" Yes I do and I still believe that the use of tech is a part of the solution, just not the only thing we should be embracing in education right now. So, how as a teacher, with all of the digital tools and devices out there, are you suppose to integrate tech in such a way that it works well and does not take away from the learning? Well.....that's the rub, that's your job to navigate through all of this! Here are some ideas/tips to help you think about how to use tech to enhance learning.

"Yet it seems clear to me
It pounds inside my soul
Why don't we all see
We can cry out for a change."
     ----Fishbone, Change
     I threw tech at the students and they still aren't learning!?

Look. They are teens. So they get distracted. Yes, even you AP Students, you get distracted. So throwing an iPad, Chrome Book, or Mac Air at the students and just have them use Google is not going to produce the results (the droids?) you are looking for in your class. You have to design it so students use the device in such a way that they are engaged with the material, each other and you! If you stand in front of the students lecturing for 48 minutes while they have a device (other than their cell phone) you are doomed. Doomed. How about intro some material for 5-10, give the students a problem, walk around the room and help them in solving the problem. Are they always going to be 100% on task all the time? No. Are they 100% on task all the time when they are not using technology? No. What is silly then is to blame the tech for the problem. "All kids are going to do is look up Youtube videos or check their email!" Trust me, after 20 years in the field I have found that students are amazing at finding ways to distract themselves. However, a part of your job as a teacher is to minimize and eliminate those distractions as much as possible. That job has not changed? How does the integration of technology change any of that? It doesn't. It just makes it different, that's all. You have to change your mindset and try to be one step ahead of the students.

     Interest and a connection are easier.

Something else about teaching that hasn't changed is making your lessons as interesting to the students as possible and to try to connect it to the world around them. When you integrate tech the right way, this becomes a lot easier to do as a teacher. Is it more work? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! Remember, you have to learn to let go a little bit. You don't have all the answers. You can't possibly. But that's okay. You shouldn't. One of the advantages of using tech to create lessons of interest and connection to the real world is you are not bound (see what I did there) to a textbook or worksheet. You have the world at your fingertips. Like the students, though, that can be daunting for teachers. That reality is probably one of the biggest roadblocks to teachers embracing tech. It's very intimidating. But, help is out there. Tons of it. If you are not using Twitter for ideas, feedback, and support, then you are on an island that you shouldn't be on right now. I love my PLN on Twitter!!! That is a good way to start is to see what others are doing and to ask for help when you need it. There are people out there who are integrating tech in amazing ways. Seek people in your building out that are doing good things with tech. Ask them. I would make an argument that there is not a class being taught out there that you cannot make interesting and connect to the world around your students. You just have to look, ask others and push yourself to embrace this change.

     Baby steps. Baby steps. Baby steps.

There is so much out there that it makes your head spin. It's true. One of the issues with diving into the use of tech into your classroom is the zillions of available tools out there for a teacher to use. Do I use Google Classroom or Schoology? Do I grade using Kaizena or through Doctopus and Goobric? Do I formatively assess using Socrative or Infused Learning? Well if you are reading this and don't know what any of those are, you are welcome. I just gave you some tools to use in your classroom right now. But I suppose that if you are already reading this you are a bit tech savvy. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Please, please, don't change everything overnight. Do a little at a time. Make one project that uses tech beyond just researching information on line. Do one project and do it well. Trust me the more you change in this way, the more you will want. I have been slowly changing over the last 4-5 years to incorporate more tech so I feel comfortable changing more of what I do in my classroom. You may not. That's okay. Take it a little at a time and if you do need ideas or help, I will post my email at the bottom of this post. Feel free to email me anytime!

     Know Your Role!

I have made some significant changes in my teaching in the last 3 years. I have tried to remove myself from always being the one delivering the material and just talking, talking, talking. It's been a big adjustment for me and the students as well. You have to adjust what you do and how you do it. In the last 3 years I have changed my role to become more of a guide and a deliverer. I have asked so many questions about content than I have in probably the last 17 years combined. Why? Well I have tried to design lessons where students are just simply filling in a blank. I have tried to push them to do more than that, to solve problems and to analyze the material they are engaged with as well. "Mr Wolski its not working!!" Do you know how many times I have been asked that question this year since for the most part we have become a 1 to 1 school since I have access to Chrome Books pretty much everyday. Next year? Yea we will be a 1 to 1 school. I like to work ahead to find out all the little issues and quirks that you have to be ready for when you integrate tech. I am the tech support in my room. You have to be, so get ready for that when you do make that leap into technology. But remember this, you have to actually use what you are having the students use in order to solve those issues that come up. How can I fix something if I don't know how it works to begin with? That is one of the role changes that you are going to have to deal with when integrating tech into your classroom. But what is nice is that once you show a few students, you can use them as a resource when other students have a similar problem. I have done this and it helps when you are trying to be 3 places at once. Finally, you are going to have to re-think how your room is set up. Traditional rows and technology are not the best of friends. Having a flexible set up might help you. I have moved the desks to pods of four to foster collaboration. While they are the traditional desks, change is coming since I volunteered to have my room redone for our move to a blended model. I am excited to see how that looks at to work with that.

     Remember, the integration of technology comes with changes for you as a teacher. Some of those changes are quite significant. We have to get over that fact. Those changes are already here when many of our students have access to the world via their smartphone anyhow. To resist that seems silly to me. Students also need to be retrained in how they interact (Future post? I think so!) in this new environment. They need to know that the infusion of technology will require them to tap into skills that maybe they use, maybe they have not been in a while. However, this is crucial for them to use these skills more and more as that world we are preparing them to enter.
     Have questions? Need help integrating some tech? Email me: wolskim@mentorschools.org
I can help with what I know so far!
     

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