At my school, 21st Century learning is an intrinsic piece of our philosophy and teaching methodology. We have a 1:1 iPad program, implement a flipped instructional model, use NearPod and Doceri for classroom presentations, and students often create screencasts, Prezis, and iMovie projects. We are always on the lookout for the newest innovations and methods for making our lessons more interactive, meaningful, and relevant.
But not every teacher is ready to take on the challenges associated with a true 21st Century classroom. Here are some tips for how schools can support teachers who are a little tech-shy and produce a dynamic and collaborative community of teachers.
Play With It
I remember years ago getting an interactive whiteboard in my classroom. The training representative came in and wowed me by creating a Jeopardy-like game, manipulating tiles around the board and inserting sound clips. He did this in about 10 minutes, and I was sold; however, when it came time for me to use my own interactive board, I could barely write on it. My students complained about the lack of touch response, and soon enough, my interactive board became a plain old white board. I used to tape index cards to it to play Jeopardy. Teacher training is still important, but nothing beats diving right in and playing with a new piece of technology, whether its a Learning Management System or a fun spelling app. Play around with it, and feel free to click that “Need help?” chat screen at the bottom. It’s likely that a customer service representative is on the other end and can’t wait to walk you through the program.
Ask for Help
If you can’t figure something out through trial-and-error, customer service help, or Youtube tutorials, why not go to a colleague? Chances are, if you’re having difficulty using or implementing a specific piece of technology, someone else has had the same problem in the past. And don’t forget about your students! This is an excellent opportunity to engage our gamers and coders. Ask them to demonstrate how to use an app. There are experts all around us.
Be Patient and Have a Backup Plan
One of the biggest challenges with technology isn’t learning how to use it, but dealing with bugs and roadblocks. If your schools’ internet isn’t robust enough, your laptop or tablet hasn’t been updated or upgraded recently, or an app simply crashes, make sure you have a low-tech or offline backup plan. There’s nothing worse than preparing a fantastic, tech-based lesson and finding out that the schools’ internet is down.
Set Small Learning Goals
It can be intimidating for teachers who are new to technology to dive right into learning how to set up an online course on a Learning Management System or become entrenched in the SAMR model. Instead, teachers can start with educational video resources such as TED or Khan Academy and slowly roll out a few key apps for students to use with consistency. Tools 4 Students is a basic graphic organizer resource, Toontastic helps younger kids write and animate short stories, and IXL provides students with practice in Math and Language Arts that meets Common Core Standards. ClassDojo can help teachers track and monitor student behavior and even increase positive communication with parents, and best of all, students can take the lead on all of these pieces of technology. Put the power in their hands.
Technology constantly evolves and programs reinvent themselves. As soon as you have mastered a particular program or piece of software, you can bet that the newest update will look completely different (I’m looking at you iMovie!). Like teaching itself, learning new technology requires educators to constantly return to being a student. Learning new technology can breathe new life into teachers and classrooms alike. Never stop learning.