Recently @carl_young asked @msstewart and myself to present at NC State for a small group of pre-service teachers. We were both asked to present on integrating technology in the classroom and discuss the challenges and successes we have had in the classroom. First of all, let me say that I can teach a room full of 100 7th graders and be completely comfortable. I can present at a technology conference to a room full of people each with a PhD or much more experience than me and be completely comfortable. However, stick me in a room full of 15 females and one male – all of which I had at least one class with in college – and make me the expert on technology for 20 minutes…sweaty nervous! (Hopefully, they couldn’t tell…)
Both Meredith and I discussed our challenges and successes when integrating technology into our classrooms. Meredith and I have used a lot of the same technology tools (a few of which I borrowed from her) and shared similar experiences. I hope the pre-service teachers walked away with at least a few tools they could use and some inspiring thoughts (inspiring could be a stretch, but I’m going with it). I thought it went really well and we had a lively discussion afterwards with the pre-service teachers. Overall, A+ effort on all fronts.
However, it got me thinking about what I was really saying during my part of the presentation. Below you will find the prezi I used to present my presentation. Simple and to the point. Take a peak and see what you think. It may be hard to follow and figure out what I mean by a few things, but just imagine a George Clooney presentation style with a splash of Steve Martin humor and you have me…at least in my mind.
I am currently about 3/4 quarters of the way through my first of year of teaching and here is a list of what I have learned about integrating technology into my classroom. Let me know what you think.
1. Technology in the classroom should always be used to enhance the learning of the student. I know that many of you who read this are the ones that will say…DUH and stop reading because you know that already, but please keep going. It gets really good later on. Of course, using technology can sometimes (not always) make teaching easier, more fun, and entertaining, but those three things (and others like them) should never be the reason for integrating technology. Making my job as a teacher easier is never my ultimate goal for doing anything. If I am making things easier for myself intentionally, then I may not be trying hard enough to enhance my students’ learning. Technology should only be used to help students learn something in a different way. I like to think of technologies as carnival mirrors. Carnival mirrors always show you a different way to look at yourself just as technology can show students a different way to look at the curriculum or (re)deliver the content that I am teaching them.
2. One of the pre-service teachers asked, “Do you expect your students to use these tools at home?” Great question, and I think I have an answer to that question now (unfortunately, 18 hours later). I do not expect my students to use the tool at home. I would love if they did, but I do not expect it because I am realistic. I would love to steal their online time and fill it with educational and enriching activities, but I know that will not be the case because some of students do not have internet access at home and some students just won’t do it. So why integrate technology? By now, my students EXPECT ME to provide them with an experience that they have never had before in the classroom (or anywhere…hopefully). Integrating technology is one of the ways that I provide all of my students with that previously unexperienced experience. With that being said, I do expect my students to practice what I model in class when they use other technology tools at home (i.e. facebook, youtube, myspace). I want them to be safe and create a unique, respectable, and contributing online identity. That is what I expect and that is what my students expect…in a nutshell.
3. If something doesn’t work, kill it. Don’t force a technology-based project to be successful in your class. It will just stress everyone out and ultimately, the students’ learning will suffer in the end. Instead, if a project is drowning and you can’t save it, just let it sink…straight to the bottom. Find another float to float on in the deep end. Perfect example…My classes were all doing the Twitter Project and it was going no where fast. Parents weren’t responding, only some of my students were responding, and admin was nervous so we just killed it. In each of my classes, we held a memorial service for the project and bid it farewell. One of my students even wrote a eulogy for the project. We all promised to resurrect the project – Frankenstein style – if I get another good idea, but for now, may the Twitter Project RIP.
4. I enlisted a few students to be my tech-princes (they just happened to be all guys or I would have had tech-princesses too). They help me troubleshoot any tech problems in the class during projects. I chose them because they already had an interest in technology. These are the few students that go home and play with the tools I use in class. Those students are my tech-princes. They are the mini-experts in the class, and to be honest, if I don’t know the answer then one of them always does. It is a great system and the students love it. Obviously, it was awkward at first, but the tech-princes have grown into their role and really flourished.
There is more…much more! Like how hard I find it to grade technology-based projects and how other teachers lean on you once you are pinned a techy, but for now, enjoy!