Module 5 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency and demonstrate a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

But first, a brief anecdote:

They said the meeting would focus on “technology.”

We sat together (after a day of trying to help adolescents learn new things) and listened to step-by-step instructions on how to use each of our school’s tech tools.  The attendance tracker, the grade book, the google suite. 

To tell you the nasty truth, this busy, tired, first-year teacher was pretty annoyed.  I had lessons to plan and papers to grade, but was forced to sit there while a relatively small group of my colleagues learned how to pin tabs in a web browser, initiate a Google hangout, etc.  I didn’t need what they needed. I had hoped that this “technology” meeting would equip me with tools I might use to make English Language Arts come alive for the brooding teens I love so much.  But my colleagues – I really do love them very much – weren’t ready for any of that.  They wanted to know where the shared documents are hiding on the Google suite (Oh, well, you can find them under the “shared with me” tab.)

Here’s the problem with keeping teachers up to speed on technology: we all start in different places.  One colleague at my school is blazing a trail for kids with special needs to design and create products using 3D printers. At the other end of the spectrum, one dear teacher-friend of mine sincerely believes that data is deleted when she toggles between different sheets on Excel. The rest of us find ourselves scattered between these poles.

Standard 5 asks teachers to commit to their own ongoing growth in technological proficiency, and it asks them to demonstrate a vision of this for others. The vignette above shows, I think, both how overwhelming this can feel and how necessary it is. So here’s my personal question for ISTE #5 – How can a first-year teacher grow in their own tech proficiency while demonstrating a vision technology infusion in their educational setting?

And here are the partial answers I’ve picked up over the first 3 quarters of my first year:

“A classroom educator’s primary job is understood to be covering the assigned content and ensuring that students test well. Many educators do not have the information, the time, or the incentives to continuously improve their professional practice” (39).

1.) Beginners aren’t exempt from leadership, especially when it comes to technology.

While I might not lead the school in tech integration, this is a realm in which I can make a contribution.

At first, It was tempted to shrug off parts of this standard: “exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.” Who am I to exhibit any kind of leadership, especially when the guy down the hall just printed a chess set?! And I just got here!

But it was unfair of me to take this stance. I work with a bunch of knowledgeable sweethearts, and any success I have achieved in my first year was made possible by their help. Coworkers have shared curriculum, advice, planning methods, and grading systems. Some of the teachers who’ve been so helpful to me are the ones who asked about how to access shared documents and pin tabs.

I take for granted that these things come easily to me. If I’m intimidated by ISTE Education Standards, I can’t imagine how it feels to be the person who’s still a little overwhelmed by the Google suite. One way that I can begin to demonstrate vision for technology infusion is to first share my excitement and my knowledge of these little tricks.

There are a ton of knowledgeable and experienced teachers who are afraid of the bigger changes in ed tech because they’re struggling with the “regular tech” that new teachers [use]. The support needed among my school’s faculty requires relational initiative; while I’m not a world-class tech expert, I am pretty friendly. One easy step toward demonstrating a vision for technology infusion is to help even the playing field among faculty members by sharing my excitement and knowledge about these little tricks.

2.) Comfort with the technology of daily life does not automatically boost student learning.

This module’s reading pointed out that “Young teachers are similar to their students in that they… are comfortable interacting with digital devices and accessing the internet as their students are. Still, this does not mean they understand how to use the technology of their daily lives to improve their teaching practices” (44).

While it’s true that technology integration feels more obvious and organic to me than it does to some of my more seasoned teacher friends, comfort with technology does not automatically translate into increased student learning. The standard doesn’t ask me to be handy with a computer, it asks me to “make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.” If I want to leverage technology to support student learning, I need to explore “existing and emerging digital tools.” Fortunately, independent professional growth is easier than ever before. In her post about standard 5, my friend Marjorie shared about a curated list of teacher tech tools, available at ala.org.  They’ve even organized their suggestions into categories:  Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Manage & Organize, Social Networking & Communication, Content Resources, Curriculum Collaboration.  After just a few minutes of poking around, I found two resources I’ll likely use in an upcoming unit on the history of the US Presidency.

3.) Modern technology promises to make Professional Development easier than ever before.

I can see why some teachers roll their eyes at professional development. As my vignette above illustrates, trying to bring a diverse staff up to speed on a topic as broad as “technology” seems like an impossible task. With so many different levels of knowledge, experience, and willingness, it’s difficult for education leaders to help teachers “develop” together.

Our reading talked about the ways in which educators can personalize learning for our students (page 41), but the personal possibilities apply to teachers, too. We can leverage online trainings and resource sharing in order to meet individual teachers or departments in their area of greatest need. Schools can give their teachers access to webinars and tutorials that allow teachers to become proficient on the same tools at their own pace. (Oh! Look! I’m “demonstrating a vision of technology infusion” right now! I’m doing it!)

References:

AASL. (2016).  Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2015. Best Tools for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology.  November 2010.  Transforming American Education:  Learning Powered by Technology.  National Education Technology Plan 2010.  Retrieved from: https://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf