In honor of Shavuot, on which we celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah to the Jewish people, we’re sharing our own EdTech “commandments.”
1. Don’t use technology just because.
Technology is amazing, and these days technology is more impressive than ever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to help your student learn better. Before bringing any technology into your classroom, take time to think about the learning goals you have for your students. What do you want them to accomplish? What do you want them to be able to do? If technology can help you, then that’s great! Being thoughtful in the beginning about how technology is integrated into your classroom will pay off much more in the long term.
2. Relinquish control.
In a traditional classroom, the teacher stands at the front with full control over students’ activities. When you bring technology into your classroom, and especially when using a blended learning model, you’ll have to give up some of that control. Of course, you’ll still determine students’ rotation groups, what they’ll work on, and how, but students are capable of directing their learning when you give them the chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what they can accomplish when they are more in control of their their learning process. (Note: The leeway you give certainly depends on the grade level of the students). Of course, not all control is given to the students. You will be there to guide them as you walk around the classroom and will work with them in small groups or one-on-one. Though not at the front of the room, the teacher still designs the learning experiences and ensures students are working in a productive way.
3. Don’t fear failure.
Change is difficult and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your fear that new ways of teaching won’t work. Fearing failure, though, can hold you back from potentially amazing successes! Plus, if you are honest with your students that something might not work, you’re modeling the growth mindset for them. They’ll be able to see that not everything succeeds the first time, but the most important part is to not give up!
Once you overcome your fear of failure, you’ll be free to experiment. With hundreds, if not thousands, of EdTech tools out there to try, experimenting is key. Only by trying different tools will you find the ones that work best for your classroom and your students. And experimenting isn’t limited to the technology itself; trying out various models, such as blended learning or flipped classroom, is just as important.
5. Encourage independence.
In the workplace today it’s expected that you’ll perform a quick Google search before asking a basic question. Students, however, will likely go directly to the teacher for an answer. Teachers need to cultivate their students’ independence and autonomy, encouraging them to search for answers on their own, or by collaborating with peers. These are skills they will be expected to have in the future, and the earlier they can learn how to learn independently, the better. With younger kids, “ask three, then me” is a popular adage to remind students to check three sources, for instance a book, a friend, and the Internet, before asking a teacher.
6. Give students choices.
In a traditional classroom, students all proceeded along one learning path. With technology making personalized learning possible today, however, students each progress along their own learning journey. That necessitates the students making their own choices in how to continue their learning. They might choose to spend more time practicing a certain concept. They might want to discuss a project with a peer. They might want to demonstrate their learning using an app or by creating a video. What’s most important is to support each student as they reflect on their learning journey and make choices in how to continue it.
7. Never say never.
Just because a methodology or tool doesn’t immediately sound like something you want to use, don’t discount it right away. Always be willing to hear more about how something can be used in innovative ways before making up your mind. You never know - that app you thought wouldn’t work could become a classroom favorite! So, take time to fully investigate how a piece of technology could support your goals and enhance learning for your students.
8. Learn from students.
Students these days are digital natives. They might not understand how to use Wikipedia right away, but they’ve been around technology likely since they were born. Don’t be afraid if your students can operate the iPad more efficiently than you. Use your students technology skills as an advantage. Encourage them to innovate and experiment. It’s completely natural for them to just “figure it out” as they go, so let them! Empower your students with the technology and the freedom to explore, and then see what they can teach you.
9. Join a network.
There will always be challenges along the way, but you can overcome those challenges by joining a network or community of practice. Other teachers have likely faced the same difficulties, and they can provide new solutions for you to try out. When you’re feeling frustrated, nothing is better than speaking with another teacher who understands what you’re going through. Participating in a network is an excellent way of finding new tools, tips, and resources. Twitter has a particularly active EdTech community. These are just some of the hashtags you can follow to get new ideas and to find other like-minded educators: #EdTech, #EdTechChat, #BlendedLearning, #FlipClass, #PersonalizedLearning, #PBL (project-based learning), #DigitalCitizenship, #GBL (game-based learning), #iPadEd. And don’t forget to join our network!
10. Share your story.
Your hard work will pay off. The day will come when you’re busy running around your classroom, but then all of a sudden you’ll think to yourself, “Wow! This is going great!” Help other teachers get to that “wow” moment by sharing your story. Be honest about your challenges and how you overcame them. Show how you use technology to support learning in your classroom. Explain what models or tools worked or didn’t work and why. Share your secrets for success so other teachers like you can create exciting, engaging learning experiences for their students, too. (Click here to see success stories right here on our blog!)
For more tips on integrating technology into the classroom, send us a note through Ask DJLN, our EdTech help desk!