Encouragement for Teachers New to Technology
This blog is for those of you who are just starting to get excited about the new technology you are beginning to access, but at the same time, are overwhelmed. It's actually a message of hope so please keep reading! It has a happy ending.
For the past two or three years I have been trying to do the "technology thing." I'm trying to be the tech savvy educator who is keeping up with all that is becoming available to us as educators. I am fortunate enough to be teaching in a district which has begun to provide us with nearly everything that we need. I have a Smartboard, an i-pad, some access to classroom sets of i-pads, web-based universal assessment with electronic reports, and various web-based diagnostic and intervention tools also with access to electronic reports on the progress of each and every child. The only thing I haven't been given is the brain implant needed to retain all that I'm trying to learn. I go to workshops only to lose what I have learned because I don't use it soon enough.
While all of this technology is absolutely wonderful and necessary, at times I still feel as if I am drowning. There is a quote out there somewhere which compares this to "drinking out of a firehose." Too much information, too fast. Not enough time to process and practice.
I found myself trying to learn all that these wonderful devices had to offer. I researched, went to workshops provided by our school, attended free technology weekend seminars and tried desperately to find the time to create new lessons on my Smartboard, create and use google docs, and find ways to organize my newfound websites and other electronic creations (which is still my biggest mountain to climb -- if only I could find where I saved that lesson!).
But as an elementary classroom teacher, I still needed to keep up on the latest ways to teach reading, comprehension and fluency, math, science and social studies, while also switching to a standards-based report card and keep pace with the ever-changing requirements of the State. Because of the newfound technological gifts bestowed upon me I also had to review and analyze these online assessments of my students for IEP meetings and to help plan for their direct instruction. More information to sift through. Plus, there were behavioral issues to deal with in my classroom and I had to figure out how to help these children socially and emotionally as well. Technological learning and implementation sometimes had to get pushed to a tiny corner or a placed on a shelf until I had more time. How did other teachers do it? I was really trying so hard. Maybe too hard? Was I learning ANYTHING? Was I making ANY progress?
I was so busy being frustrated by my own slow pace of learning to realize that I was, indeed, actually assimilating some of this information. (I am sure that you are too). Sure, technological glitches had forced me on many occasions to get frustrated, shut down my Smartboard and go to my "old" ways of teaching on the rug with manipulatives and/or with chart paper. But maybe I shouldn't get rid of those techniques altogether anyway. Maybe there needs to be a balance (especially in elementary ed).
THERE IS A HAPPY ENDING... KEEP READING
Then I went to a Blue Ribbon Conference and had my eyes opened to something which I hadn't been aware. I went to a similar conference two years ago and was "wowed" by the school. Each classroom had an Interactive Whiteboard in their classroom. The teachers could use the IWB. They knew how to create lessons. They spoke foreign words to me. Told me to look at their Wikki. What's that? Am I even allowed to look at it? Am I already looking at it and don't know that I am?
HERE'S THE HAPPY ENDING...
This year I went to the conference and skipped sessions on Smartboards that were too basic. Too basic for ME! I guess I had learned something. I was warned at the beginning of a session on i-pads that the workshop was for users who had just begun to use the device and that we should probably seek out another session if we knew more than the basics. I left! I attended another session for intermediate use and was helping the teacher next to me figure things out. I was actually translating the foreign technological instructions that she was hearing! And, at one point in the day, I actually heard myself explain to someone what a Wikki was!
The biggest take-away I had after leaving this conference was the realization that I had actually learned a lot over these past two years. I had learned little by little over a period of time. I had grown but didn't see that I had grown until I was placed in a similar setting that I had been placed in two years prior and discovered that I knew much more than I had given myself credit for. There is still a long way to go and I don't see myself as an "expert" on anything technological yet. But there has been progress. That's what I always look for in my students -- progress. If there is progress, there is hope. If there is hope, there is room for more growth.
So keep your hope alive. Take it in small bites. And realize that if you learn only one thing this school year, you are still learning. Be kind to yourself.
In reality, there isn't a happy ending, because it is never going to end. Technology is not going away...which means that we have a lot of time to learn.