4 Tech Integration Tips for New Teachers
A few weeks back you shared a post on 4 Reasons for Technology Integration and I wanted to take time today to chat a bit about tech in our practice.
You mentioned four reasons why you integrate tech into your work: to support Student Voice, to have Documentation, to promote Collaboration and lastly to allow you to have Faster Feedback. The reasons showcase the way you teach in the classroom which is awesome, but not all new teachers are as far along the tech compendium as you are.
We know that most new teachers are still grappling with the normal day-to-day process of running a classroom. And who could blame them? If as a new teacher you don't have the basic classroom structures in place that you want to support you and your students, you might as well just stop there. And that's OK! Most new teachers don't come to the classroom prepared to launch a full-blown "tech integration" piece to support their pedagogy. How do I know this? Well... I'm a former school principal, as you know, who hired over 100 new teachers in the 14 years that I did that work. And as an adjunct in a teacher prep program, I see the same lack of skills in my students in their ability to apply meaningful tech to classroom lessons.
I share this because I think it's important for new teachers to know they are not alone! Many would have us believe that because "most" new teachers are millennials, they should have this part down. But the fact of the matter is they don't. Honestly, to some degree, I blame that on the lack of universities to be able to provide their pre-service students with meaningful technology integration practices that can support their pedagogy.
I don't know why it is that teacher training programs don't typically offer a Technology Practicum where pre-service students could sit with new supportive technologies, and applications in a hands-on workshop, led by an experienced instructor, and consider how when in the classroom they would apply these to their work. It frustrates me at times because I know that in higher ed, we could do better. What I try to do in the short time that I have my students is to provide opportunities for them to take a look at some of the tech tools available and consider how they might use them going forward. It's not as much as I'd like to do but at least it's a start.
So in your previous tech post, you asked me a question: What would you want your teachers to keep in mind when they integrate technology with their students? Let me give you four short suggestions that I would have for new teachers who want to start to maximize opportunities to utilize tech in the classroom:
Pedagogy Comes First. If you don't have your pedagogy down in terms of how you structure your lessons with students, teach your lessons, reflect on your lessons, don't bother to add technology. It will just make it worse. You're not ready. Master the skill of instruction first and when you're ready then you can begin to consider how you would add a tech practice or application to your lesson. Some might argue and say new teachers should just jump in. I disagree. It's my opinon and I'm sticking to it.
Work with a Mentor. When you're ready, seek out a mentor who's confident with adding tech to their lessons. Someone who's well on their way to mastering the skill of teaching lessons and feels comfortable with adding that technology support to the lessons and projects they're working on the students. It'll be so much more helpful to work with someone who's already been on the road that you're on. Someone who's had time to fail at what they've done, get up and start doing better and can be that support to you as you begin that process.
Ask questions (on Twitter). As you start working with technology tools, you need to feel comfortable asking questions of a mentor or colleague. One of the things that I found in my career as a principal is that not enough new teachers ask questions. I would come in to do observations in the classroom and I think I mentioned this before but I would find that my new teachers would fail at the lesson. When I'd ask them if they asked questions of their mentors, 95 percent of them would say no. I know that they could have felt much more confident had they asked questions to get feedback. We can't let our ego get in the way of supporting us to be the best that we can be for ourselves and our students. If you don't have a mentor or a supportive colleague take your questions to social media! My number one place to recommend would be Twitter. Sign yourself up on Twitter, find people to follow, connect with them, and start to ask questions. You'll be amazed how quickly you can begin to build a community and get answers to questions about how to integrate tech in ways you never dreamed possible. It's really a supportive community for educators.
Pick one tech tool, get good at using it. It's not a race and anybody who tells you that is wrong. If you want to get good at integrating technology tools and applications into your work then start small. Pick one tool that you think will be super supportive of your goals with your students and get good at using it. As you're doing this support your students to get good at using it too. Maybe it's something simple like a Google doc, Google Slides, or Google Spreadsheets. There are so many things that you can do with Google Tools that you'll be surprised how quickly your students will pick it up. They might even be able to show you a thing or two about how to use them. And wouldn't that be the best thing in the world!
Christine, now that I've shared my 4 tips, I'm curious how long it took you to feel confident about adding tech integration into your classroom? Did you have great mentors? Is it a skill that came naturally? Did you have some meaning professional development opportunities that launched your skill set? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!