Dear teacher overwhelmed by technology …

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dear teacher overwhelmed by technology …

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the apps and sites and digital tools. Here are some tips to getting control and moving forward.

New apps. New websites. New digital tools.

Tech companies keep creating new stuff for us to use. They add new updates to the stuff we're already using.

It's helpful. Until it isn't.

Teaching is an overwhelming profession. There's a lot to process and do in a day -- often too much. When you try to level up your classroom tech skills, it can feel like a full-time job.

That's the sentiment that a K-4 library media specialist shared in an email with me recently. Here's what she wrote:

I subscribe to your newsletter and am fascinated with the numerous directions I could go with tech; however, even though I consider myself tech-savvy, I am feeling overwhelmed with vast amount of ideas and resources available. Do you have any posts relating to this to help me focus in smaller areas?

I didn't then. But I do now! I thought the advice I shared with her could be useful to you.

Some context for my response below: 

  • She sees students a half hour a week in the media center but only really has 20 minutes of solid work time.
  • Students have Chromebooks and iPads available to them depending on the grade level.
  • The school has a push toward integrating arts.
  • They use Seesaw, Schoology, and Google tools.

Below is my response ...

So good to hear from you! I love your question -- not because you're overwhelmed, but because you articulate it so clearly and it's a feeling I am so familiar with.

First of all, let me encourage you. It sounds like you are definitely on the right track! You're aware of a lot of things you can use in your classroom, and you're using some of them. That's great in and of itself.

You have a limited amount of time with your kiddos every day. That's the same boat that so many other teachers are in, and although the amount of time varies, it is finite. With that in mind, there's something important to remember ...

You can't use it all. 

(You probably already know this, but I thought I'd remind you just in case.)

You're not supposed to use it all, either. All that you're supposed to use is exactly what will make a positive difference for your students.

When I was in the classroom last, I used a lot of Google tools. I distinctly remember when Seesaw was coming on strong (I see you're a Seesaw ambassador!) and I thought, "Hmm ... lots of people are using this with really good results. Maybe I should use it too." But I couldn't envision a scenario where using it was going to make learning better enough for my students to add it.

Of course, that's not to say that Seesaw isn't a great product. I think it's fantastic -- especially the changes they've made to accommodate Chromebooks and older students. But for what it did, I already had a solution.

I didn't need it. So I didn't use it.

I found that I needed to be very judicious about what tech I let in my classroom. (And that goes for anything, even beyond tech -- teaching strategies, supplies, procedures, etc.)

About overwhelm ...

Here are two other things I've found about overwhelm.

One: Feeling overwhelmed isn't about having too many options. It's not knowing where to start. 

Two: If you're trying to figure out where to start, here's my best advice ...

  • Start small. Find something that makes you say "I can do that."
  • Start with impact. Find something that will improve things for your students the most right away.
  • Start with passion. What are you excited about? Your students? Enthusiasm can carry you through struggles sometimes.

In your situation, let's go back to Seesaw. The students you serve either use iPads, use iPads/Chromebooks, or use Chromebooks. Seesaw is a nice fit for all of those platforms. If you want to integrate the arts, Seesaw is an excellent fit. It lets students record their voice and their screen as well as draw on the screen.

You're already embodying a key strategy that I encourage teachers to use ...

Do more with less tools.

Even find one tool -- in this case, Seesaw -- that allows you to do a lot. Then stick to that tool whenever possible. That's not to say that you can't use others. It's good to research and be up on new things. That way, if you find something that will work better than what you have, you can make a change.

But when you keep going back to one tool, students get familiar with it. You get familiar with it. They end up on task more because they're comfortable with that tool. They have a fluency with it.

If you can find new and different ways to use the same tool, that's the BEST. Then, the activities and the experiences feel new every time, but students are still fluent with the tool they're using.

You got this.

Slow and steady wins this race. Find what works with your students. Avoid using the shiny new objects just because they're shiny and new. Keep the focus on what you want your students to learn and how they're going to do it.

You're already doing so much better than you realize. Keep up the good work. Your students will thank you for it.


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  • kathijameharbanu says:

    Excellent ideas..

    • Elizabeth says:

      Fabulous reply, Matt! I am that ‘overwhelmed’ teacher, in all caps! You hit the nail on the head by saying ‘overwhelmed’ = “I don’t know where to start”! I am giving my first online reading assessment on 3/10/20, plus working 50 hours a week. ‘Online’ and ‘reading assessment’ are both brand new. That said, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and know it’s not an oncoming train! Keep the good info. flowing. It is much appreciated.

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