After attending several Summer Workshops through EdTech Teacher in June with a team of teachers & admin colleagues, as well as following the #ISTE2015 and #NAESP streams on Twitter, one thought resonates with me as our district embarks on a 1:1 iPad initiative in the fall:
Having access to technology in the classroom can be incredibly powerful and allows students to access content and information in a dynamic, engaging way. It can allow teachers to differentiate instruction for individual learners, as well as serving as a motivating tool in the classroom for students. It can provide students with choices in how they demonstrate understanding and showcase their learning. Technology can allow students to publish their work for a global, authentic audience and it sure can break down the walls of the classroom and facilitate an environment where learning takes place anytime, anywhere. All of these aforementioned statements can happen with technology, but the most important part to all of these experiences happening for our students is ultimately a teacher who creates these meaningful learning opportunities through the use of technology.
In the EdTech Teacher Workshop Shawn McCusker led in Chicago, he shared 3 simple rules for using technology that I also want our teachers to remember as they embark on this journey.
1. When technology gets in the way of relationships with students, put it away.
Relationships are still the foundation to successful classrooms. We all know that significant learning cannot take place until a relationship exists between teacher and students. Don’t let a fancy piece of technology impede this very important focal point.
2. Be effective at being a classroom teacher.
As I touched upon earlier, a great teacher makes all the difference in a classroom–not the technology. A great teacher will continue to create purposeful, meaningful opportunities for students and will capitalize on those learning opportunities through the use of technology. An effective teacher will see the power and capabilities of technology and use the tool to enhance learning. After sitting in the EdTech Teacher Workshops, I couldn’t help but think how exciting it is to be a student in a classroom with these amazing devices, but also a teacher.
3. When you hear a loud noise, stand back and let it happen.
Shawn talked to us about proximity, and how oftentimes teacher use proximity as a classroom management strategy: as you walk closer towards a behavior issue, it tends to diminish. With technology in the classroom, oftentimes teachers approach students or groups whose noise level escalates, but students have learned to quiet down or stop what they’re doing as the teacher approaches. Shawn encouraged us to “let it happen” and allow students to explore and create with the devices. He also encouraged us to never touch the students’ devices, but rather to “let them drive” and walk them through steps.
As excited as we can get with technology and all that it can “do” for our students and teaching/learning, we have to remember that it’s not about the technology, but rather how our teaching practices must evolve given the powerful tools we have in our classrooms to support the teaching and learning. I saw this tweet from @poida and it’s a great graphic that shows how educators should not be seen as experts when it comes to technology, but must have a healthy outlook and mindset given how the landscape of teaching is changing as a result of the technology.
As we introduce 1:1 devices to our classrooms come August, I’m excited to support the teachers and learn alongside them. I’m excited to see how the devices will support learning and give students more voice and choice. I’m hopeful to see students create and collaborate, as well as observing a high level of engagement and excitement in the learning process–but most importantly, I expect to find teachers who have established and built a rapport where children feel safe, secure and welcome in their classroom; where teachers have great relationships with their students, and where students are kind to one another in their classroom and school community. It’s not always about the devices. Although many things do change and evolve as a result of the technology, some things remain constant. For me, it’s making sure the best teachers possible fill the classrooms come August.