Teachers and Technology

In my job as an Instructional Technology Specialist I am in the classroom with teachers every day.  I am teaching alongside other veteran teachers and I really have the best of both worlds!  I get to go into classrooms and help teachers understand how to apply technology, but I also get to learn so much from the teachers I am with on a daily basis!  Every day when I am in a classroom I also learn from the teachers I am teaching with!  I get to see how teachers phrase directions, how they engage with their students, and how they simplify complex ideas!  I love my job in that not only do I teach, but I learn something new everyday – from other teachers and the students!

I have to say that when I took this job I really thought that teachers didn’t use technology because they didn’t want to learn something new.  I do still think there are a lot of apathetic teachers, but I also now know there are a lot of teachers that don’t understand technology!  I was in a classroom yesterday helping a teacher use her ipad.  The kids were telling us tips and tricks right and left!  The teacher was amazed at what the kids already knew about the ipad that she didn’t!  I told her that for the students, the knowledge of computers and technology is intuitive; they don’t have to be taught how to use the technology because they ALREADY know!  She turned to me and said, “I have been teaching for 20 years, you can put me in any grade level and any classroom and I know how to deliver a lesson.  HOWEVER, I have no idea how to use technology, this scares me because I don’t know what to do!”

I think that is really where teachers are right now.  It isn’t that they don’t want to learn, it is that the technology isn’t intuitive to them as it is to their students!  Teachers are not generally clickers – pressing unknown buttons scares them (we are rule followers – only doing what we are told!), whereas kids are eager to know what every button does so they just press all the buttons.  I always give my students “playground” time when I am introducing a new technology.  Playground time is time to just go in and play in the software or application.  I think what I figured out yesterday is that in professional development and working with teachers I also need to give playground time for them to just sit and play with their devices, encouraging them to press all the buttons and see what they do!

Mostly teachers do want to learn, but what they see in front of them with technology is so intimidating they don’t feel like they can press forward.  Teachers – please understand it is OKAY to make mistakes in front of your students and to LEARN technology from them!  I would just say to all teachers, just keep pressing forward with baby steps!


Bring Your Own Device Pilot – phase 1 FINISHED!

We finished our BYOD pilot last week and I have to say, it was an amazing success!  The students loved the program, as did the parents!  We are in the process of wrapping up the pilot and trying to launch another one with more classrooms.

To effectively measure the success of the pilot I created surveys for the parents and the students, using Google Forms.  When we set out to do the pilot we decided that the program would only be useful to us if the students were engaged and excited about learning, if the technology enhanced learning, and the technology was easy for the students to use.  So, in order to measure our effectiveness, those are the types of questions I asked of the students and parents.

We just sent the parent link out today, so no parents have answered yet.  The student’s responses are coming in and if you are interested in seeing what they have to see about the pilot you can find their answers here.  I think the thing that has surprised me the most is one of the students said they would have liked more direct instruction on how to make a video.  I guess I went into this project thinking that the students are digital natives and therefore wouldn’t need any extra reinforcement on the process.  Also, being that they were using their own devices, I wanted them to pick the tool that they were already familiar with.  In hindsight, I should have had a “mini-lesson” for students that wanted to hear how to make the trailer, instead of relying on the students to teach each other and ask me if they had questions.

One of the “ah-ha” moments for me came with the students said the groups were too big.  I had put the students in groups of three for the project because that seemed like a good number!  However, the students said that working in a group that big on this type of project was problematic.  They would have preferred to just have two students in each group.  I think this is great input.  As a side note, I should mention that surveying your students after any lesson is really important!  The students are the audience and the consumers of the information we as teachers are delivering.  The students have really great insight into how to better deliver a lesson and what worked effectively and what wasn’t so great in the lesson.  I always have a “debrief” with my students after a unit and get their input.  I tell the students that they can’t make me cry, but they can tell me anything negative as long as they phrase it politely.  I also tell them that I reserve the right to NOT take their advice, because sometimes they can’t see the big picture of why we did something (but I do always try to explain the big picture to the students!).

To sum up, I think the pilot was a smashing success and I am looking forward to expanding the pilot group to a larger group of students.  I will post the parent feedback as soon as I have the results.  Additionally, if you are interested in seeing the student’s work, it can be found here.