Welcome to exciting times.
If you’re new to teaching with technology, there are some givens.
First, it’s not going to work exactly like you want all the time.
Second, it’s OK if it takes some time to tinker to get it to work exactly like you want.
Third, sometimes you’ll have to abandon some tools/ideas/activities because they just won’t work like you want.
That said, there are amazing, exciting, fun things that can ensue from your bravery to expand your comfort zone and start integrating more technology in your lessons.
(And if you’ve been integrating technology for a while, it never hurts to revisit the fundamentals.)
Here are 10 things I’d like you to remember as you undertake this adventure:
1. Get in and try it. Don’t worry that you don’t understand every detail about a new digital tool or an activity that you want to do. Inaction is crippling. Action is empowering. Jump in and start. And if you still can’t figure it out, there are plenty of people out there (myself included!) ready to help you out.
2. Reflect and share. Once you’ve found something that works — or something that doesn’t — tell others about it. Remember how powerful it is when you — or your students — teach something to someone else. It requires that person to understand it deeply. That’s you. Plus, putting your ideas out there for others to see gathers their ideas. We are stronger together.
3. Don’t feel like you have to use it all. Visit Twitter or Google Plus or a conference and you’ll come away with 482 new apps, websites and ideas. You don’t need to use every one. You’re not a failure if you don’t use every one. In fact, simplicity is king — your students will struggle if you use every one. Pick one or two to integrate at a time and let yourself and your students get comfortable with them.
4. Don’t be afraid to make it up yourself. If you can’t find ideas for integrating a particularly interesting piece of technology in class, start getting creative. Think of how the tool works, think of your students’ needs, and start putting ideas together. With me, from the outside this thought process looks like me sitting at my desk staring into space. When you find an idea that works well, see No. 2 above!
5. Trust your students as much as possible. I have great students, and there are so many great kids out there. Their attention will stray, and they will abuse time and resources. That said, have as much faith as you can in them that they will do the right thing. Don’t abandon your best ideas because some kid might make a bad decision with it.
6. Give your students control and independence. This is the next level of No. 5. Students like having a voice in what they do, and if they can see themselves in a project or activity, they’re more likely to take ownership of it. Let them pick parts of it — or the whole of it. Give them the freedom to pursue an idea in their own ways. The results might surprise you.
7. Learn from others (the good and the bad). This is the reverse of reflecting and sharing (No. 2). You can avoid plenty of potential pitfalls from heeding the advice of those that have been there. Read blog posts. Do web searches. Seek out others by e-mail or on social media. But don’t get too stuck on consuming information. Eventually you’ve got to get in and try it yourself (see No. 1).
8. Learn about the tools kids love. Great things can happen when we move in to the spaces where our students are comfortable. Their inhibitions drop and they’re more comfortable. They understand how things work and don’t have to battle the learning curve. Even if you can’t incorporate your students’ favorite tools, still learn about them. There might be elements of them that you can integrate into class (i.e. writing “tweets” as a writing assignment, students commenting on other students’ work like social media, etc.).
9. Keep sound pedagogy first. This is the cardinal rule that everyone always seems to come back to (for good reason). Solid teaching trumps all. Technology is a tool, not the goal. The learning experiences are the focus.
10. Incorporate fun and the “wow factor.” I started reading Dave Burgess’s “Teach Like a Pirate” months ago (still haven’t finished it), and this concept is worth the price of the book. Surprise students. Grab their attention. Sometimes, I’ll throw in a video or a new digital tool that isn’t a perfect fit for the lesson because it’s fun or cool. Fun and cool and the “wow factor” are powerful. A small dose can do wonders.
What other things should teachers know as they integrate technology in their classes? Share your ideas in a comment below!
Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!
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