In the last year I have written quite a bit about technology, Google, and my one-to-one tech journey. This school year I am in a new role in a new district. As ELA and Technology TOSA, approximately one-half of my time is devoted to supporting K-12 teachers with integration of educational technology. I’m writing this month about techie habits of mind for teachers because we (or am I supposed to say “they” now?) are on the front lines, the ones actually interacting with students and (hopefully) technology day in and day out.
In my work with staff of the past and present, I have come across a number of proactive, positive practices and attitudes toward technology integration I would like to share here. This advice is the same I would have given the me of 2015, the teacher looking to become more techie.
1. Nurture a Growth Mindset
In the spring, fellow CorelaborateWA blogger Joanna Barnes wrote a series of blogs titled Bringing a Growth Mindset to Tech. In her first post she described a technology integration/comfort continuum and discussed how important it is to recognize where we are so we can make a plan for moving forward. This idea resonates with me.
I might not even realize how others (i.e. my students) perceive my attitude toward something new, in this case technology. However, as a model of learning and the learning process, it is not acceptable for me to admit defeat, to throw up my hands and say, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard/weird/different.” It would be absurd for me to shrug my shoulders and say, “I just don’t do reading,” and the same should be true of technology.
I must, therefore, do what I can to keep up-to-date with what my district (and the world) has to offer. This might mean I sign up for that afterschool/Saturday training or subscribe to a tech blog or podcast. It might mean I push up my sleeves and regularly practice using technology, that I ask questions and look for answers. It might also mean that I take an appropriate and well-planned instructional risks with technology, accepting that my lesson might not always go as planned but that we will all learn something from the process. I must have a growth mindset.
2. Google It
I am only slightly ashamed to say I can’t imagine going back to life without Google. Yes, that seems dramatic, even silly, but I seriously use it every.single.day. Not only does it provide the tablespoon conversion for the recipe I am trying to quadruple, but it also helps me solve small and large tech issues.
I don’t think my librarian-friends who are trying to teach proper research skills would like me to share this next tip: Google is so smart that one can literally write the [simple-ish] question they are wondering and many relevant results will be found. This is particularly useful for “How do I” questions.
Just last week a teacher asked me if she should bother converting her Google Forms quizzes to the new Google Forms format. I didn’t know the answer off the top of my head, but Google did. (The short answer is–maybe not, as Flubaroo has some unique features.) Of course, there are limits and drawbacks to this. Complex questions are not so easily discoverable, and if we can do it, so can our students, which is why we all have to move beyond Level One questions and tasks. But I digress.
3. Just Start Clicking
The tech support guys in my district might not like this piece of advice, as clicking on a seemingly innocent ad pop-up can lead to inadvertent installation of a virus or some other spyware. However, there is definitely a time and place for haphazard clicking, and that is within new applications.
When first using a new application, I take the time to explore all menus and options, and I look for patterns and connections with how they are set up. All of the Google products, for example, are pretty similar to their Microsoft companions as well as to one another. So even though I am not a regular user of Drawings, I can navigate it well enough to create a basic graphic organizer if needed. And what if I get stuck? Google to the rescue!
In addition to clicking on menus, I look for and click hyperlinks or buttons within a new application or reliable website. Hyperlinks often lead to more information, while buttons take me deeper into the application. In Calendar, for example, the red Create button in the left corner takes me into the application to create an appointment or calendar. Sometime hyperlinks and buttons are disguised so it helps to move my cursor across the screen as I scan the page.
I am not afraid to do this because I have never pressed a link or button and had the result be something from which I couldn’t go back or undo. I also suppose a little part of me likes to live life on the wild-side.
4. Find a Tribe
When my former district first went one-to-one, I was the person who knew the most about our new technology, but I certainly didn’t know everything there was to know. In order to continue growing as a learner and a leader, I needed to find people to follow. This CorelaborateWA Teacher Leader group has been a great resource. Here are a few more of my favs:
- Twitter (@jmattmiller, @PintoBeanz11, @alicekeeler, @ShakeUpLearning, @cultofpedagogy, and more)
- Google Teacher Tribe Podcast (Oddly enough, this week’s podcast which I have yet to listen to is titled “Find Your Tribe”–whoa…)
- Google Plus GEG Washington Community
- Ditch That Textbook Blog
- NCCE’s Annual Conference
Though my focus here is Google, similar resources exist for the Microsoft Suite. I am eager to grow my professional learning network so please feel free to share other ideas and resources in the comments.
My first two months out of the classroom have been a whirlwind as I have learned to navigate this new role. I am mostly happy as we settle into the 2017-2108 school year, but I do really miss having a class of students with whom to explore and learn. Moving forward, my goal is to find teachers and classes to partner with so that I can practice what I preach and continue to grow as a instructional-technology leader. This is part of my job description that has been pushed aside for more pressing tasks, but I need to make it a priority. For me, setting a goal is the first step toward improved practice, and I’d love to see others set one for improved technology usage or integration if that would serve as a catalyst for their personal change. How about this?
Once a week, once a month, once a quarter, once this year–let’s all try something new.