Educational technology certainly isn’t new, but in a way it is. For anyone who is merging technology into instructional practice, it can feel quite new. Some teachers turn to Pinterest or Twitter for ideas, and some thrive. Others feel overwhelmed and unsure where to even start. Some even tell me they are lost in those spaces, and feel so behind that it seems silly to even try to catch up. This makes me wonder what we can do to truly support teachers no matter how long they have been teaching with technology. Can we find ways to bridge the gap and encourage those who are just starting to be proud of the steps they are taking? I think we certainly can!
About six years ago I was using Moodle to share instructional resources, lead discussion groups, and create activities for my students. Three years ago I began using Edmodo and built an even bigger foundation of learning through social spaces. This year I am going to use Google Classroom with students to develop digital portfolio creation. I have come a long way in those six years. While I might tweet and share what I am doing today, it is important to remember that those who are just beginning may truly need me to really support them in the beginning. I would never want someone to feel they couldn’t ask me a question about starting with an online learning platform just because I am embarking on a new and trending learning adventure. So here are a few thoughts on how to bridge the gap with teachers new to technology.
➢ If you work with a staff, do a needs or goal assessment. Find out what these teachers need and help them start there.
➢ Curb your excitement about the latest and greatest when what your teachers really need is support in starting their journey. When teachers reach out for an idea to implement, take into consideration what they really want, rather than the newest tech tool you just discovered. Often the learning curve on new tools frustrates teachers beginning technology.
➢ Encourage even the smallest steps made toward implementing new technology. Teachers will appreciate you far more for your encouragement that your supreme knowledge of technology tools.
➢ Model new tools, and leave the door open for others to inquire when they see something that interests them.
Trust that I will be taking my own advice this year, not just with teachers, but with students as well. While a SMART Board mini activity isn’t new for me, it will be for many of my students. They need this IWB exposure and experience, and it is my job to provide that for them in the best instructional ways. While I have been using tools like Audioboo, Padlet, Blendspace, and Popplet for quite some time, my kids have not. It is important for me to build a foundation with these tools, and then expose them to others as we go. My self-evaluation doesn’t have to come from how new the technology tools are that I use. It will be based on how much difference I made with the tools that support my students' and teachers' learning!
Jaime Vandergrift is an elementary technology specialist, experienced educator, presenter and conference planner. Jaime is a co-host of EduVue, an EdReach Network Live Education Show. Jaime is pursuing her EdS degree from the University of West Georgia in Media and Instructional Technology.