Last month I wrote about thinking of technology integration and comfort in your classroom as steps on a continuum.
By thinking of it as a journey towards increasing tech competence teachers like me can acknowledge our comfort zones and then push ourselves further.
The things that helped me move along the continuum (I’m a proud “3” and sometimes a 4!) were many fold. Here are a few,
- I accepted a “tech native” student teacher-if you’re wanting someone who is very comfortable using technology to help guide you a student teacher could be just the person! My student teacher had the tech comfort level and I had the instructional knowledge to use technology to really improve our practice.
- I asked for experts in my building to have mercy on me and explain to me (many times) how they do things smarter and more efficiently using technology. This work resulted in me making a major shift from a paper-pencil-marker gradebook to a google sheets workbook *gasp*…that one took a while but now everything is kept in one place and they even showed me how to color code so I’m a happy camper
- I took a risk and applied for a blogger position. I knew I could write and communicate, but could I blog? I accepted this position without being totally confident but knew I had an opportunity to take a step forward in using tech to positively impact students. I’ve learned so much from my blogging work with PSESD and the fellow educators in this online community.
One of the most intriguing movements I’ve made along the continuum this year is shifting from paper and pencil learning journals to Google doc journals.
When I made this shift I had established a routine where my third graders would write me a morning message as an entry task. Sometimes it would be answering a specific question, other days I just invited them to write to me about anything they like. They would write in their paper journals and at recess (15 minutes) I would race around their desks and respond in writing to as many as I could get to. Asking probing questions, making connections and adding words of encouragement.
Now kids come in and grab a chromebook (we share chromebook carts with grade level teams) and start writing the message in their google doc. They started with one google doc and titled it ” student name’s morning messages”.Then I taught them how to share with me and they put the date on top of each days message but its all on one doc. Then I added the docs into a file on my drive so I can go through and check on everyone. I leave comments and questions. Then they respond to those. I do this every day (almost) and try to make more connections on the weekend when I have a few minutes
What I’ve appreciated about it is it takes the time pressure off and I can think more strategically about my comments. No more running from desk to desk! Also, kids can engage in a back and forth with me over a series of days. Having a chain of two way communication recorded digitally is pretty cool for parent teacher conferences. Logistically, these messages are now stored safely on the internet.”Ms.Barnes I lost my notebook” is no longer a problem. The most interesting and unexpected benefit I saw to using google docs was that my students began opening up to me on the google doc in ways they hadn’t in their paper journals. They told me secrets, their feelings and details about their lives that had an altogether more intimate feeling than the messages I got on paper. Maybe it feels more private to them or more intimate when we can have a private back and forth in our comments. Whatever the reason it has allowed me to get to know my students even more and connect with them in a new way.
I plan to dedicate May’s blogpost to going into more depth about my shift from paper gradebook to digital so tune back in then and learn more about my journey towards technology integration.