In exploring ideas for this month’s blog post, I couldn’t help but circle back to the topic of technology. It seems to have become essential to assisting (or invading some may say) with all facets of our daily lives.
Take yesterday for example…My IPhone alerted me that it was 5:30 a.m., time to wake up, get dressed and begin my morning workout, courtesy of the Beachbody Video in my “Blue-Ray” player. Upon completing the dreaded morning workout, I logged my activity on a fitness group I belong to on Facebook and checked my Fitbit to ensure my hard work was appropriately logged. From there, I completed my morning regimen, shower, makeup, quickly throwing my lunch in a bag (hmmm is that mold or fuzz? I’ll go with fuzz), only stopping to check my calendar on my smartphone and scan through my personal email accounts for updates (YES!!! My new sneakers shipped from Ohio and are due to arrive in 2 days!-Thank you UPS online tracking!). A quick push of the button on my Keurig and I was off to begin my day. Half-running, half-walking out the door, I reflected on the fact that I was finally able to find my way around Syracuse, which meant no longer relying on my Mapquest app, opting instead the Journey station on Pandora Internet Radio. In my haste however, I glanced down at my phone to see that I had missed a call from my father, which I was promptly alerted to with a voicemail and icon on my home screen (ahh it’s just as well as I still have not purchased a hands-free device). On a whim, I delayed arriving at the office by five minutes to grab a coffee at my local Dunkin Donuts. Before placing my order, I quickly pulled up the app on my phone to see if there were any available coupons (thank you $1.00 off lattes). Finally walking into the office I plunked into my chair, promptly booted up my laptop, re-checked my email and plugged in my work cell phone. From there I remained “plugged in” for the remainder of the work day, when I received a text from my husband reminding me to stop at the store for dinner.
Barely through the threshold of my front door, I literally tear my daughter’s IPod out of her hands just long enough to say hello and ask her about her day (“glad you had fun at school, no I won’t download a new app for you right now, love you”). From there I hit pause on the Brainpop lesson on the digestive system that my three year old was fully engaged in, to grab a quick hug from her as well. Dragging out my laptop, I quickly scanned through Pinterest to find a pin from earlier in the week to assist me in a new culinary adventure for the night. Consuming dinner in a third of the time it took me to make it, I haphazardly loaded the dirty dishes into the dishwasher and hit the “smartwash” button. Glancing at the digital clock on the microwave I could see the time, 7:45 brightly lit up. In my mind the countdown had just begun “fifteen minutes, I can do it…fifteen minutes before I can relax on the couch, turn on Netflix and catch up on New Girl.” I stop for a minute, take it all in and think, technology it is everywhere, it is in everything I do, everywhere I go…
So you may be asking, how does this translate to education? Well it occurred to me that just as we are enamored and ruled by technology as adults, so are kids. Kids are becoming more plugged in, if not more than adults, and by integrating technology into the classroom, as educators we may be able to capitalize on this with the goals of increasing engagement which likely influences achievement.
Trying to solidify my thoughts into words for this blog I typed the words “education+technology+quotes” into my Google search bar. Not long after, I stumbled across one quote that I thought best represented the marriage of education and ever evolving technology; “Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today.” – Jennifer Fleming” In reflecting on this, I arrived at the idea that it is difficult to balance all of the demands of being an educator while attempting to stay abreast of the latest technology. In an APPR, common core, SLO based world where do we have the time to stay up to date and remain apprised of new and useful technological tools for learning?
In the article entitled “Digital learning: how technology is shaping teaching” www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/11051228/Digital-learning-how-technology-is-reshaping-teaching.html) , Sophie Curtis explores the realities of the digital classroom. She begins by citing recent research conducted by Ofcom which revealed that ‘six-year-olds have the same understanding of communications technology as 45-year-olds.” To me, this suggests two things, the first is that to be considered as having skills equal to those of a middle aged adult, a young child must spend an exorbitant amount of time not only exploring and effectively using technology. Second, this means as educators we have to remain up to date if not ahead of the curve as this is how this generation of children are receiving a majority of information. My experience in a school has been, more often than not, seasoned teachers look to students to troubleshoot Smartboards, suggest new IPad apps and tinker with internet connections (for the record, guilty as charged). Given this generations’ propensity for staying in the know with the newest piece of technology and the resistance to the sit and learn while the instructor talks, the new age teacher must infuse technology into the curriculum, create lessons that are hands on, interesting, connected to outside interests and short in length.
So how does one do this? According to Lotty Chudley, there are a variety of ways, which are spelled out in her article, “What’s the Best Way to Keep Up With Ever Evolving Technology in the Classroom?” One of the best and easiest ways is to simply take new technology for a test drive. This provides an opportunity to become more familiar with it and work the kinks out in the process. This made me recall the first time I upgraded my cell phone from an Android to an IPhone. At first it was as foreign as reading Mandarin Chinese, but as time went on, the more I tinkered with it, the more proficient I became. Of most benefit however, is being a part of a group such as a Professional Learning Committee (PLC) that meets regularly and provides opportunities to stay up to date on professional development. If you are lucky enough to belong to one, it allows teachers to come together to collaborate on certain topics which not only provides time to share ideas but allows teachers to do what they do best, teach!
Another way to stay informed is to refer to the National Education Association’s website (www.nea.org/) to gather up to date information about technological tools for use in the classroom as well as read articles or journals by teachers about their adventures in the field integrating technology into teaching. Google also has some great resources, particularly apps for education (www.google.com/work/apps/education/). Here teachers can upload lesson plans, data, presentations and more to the web which allows them to access their data anywhere at any time. Best part is the service is free and work is saved automatically as it is created. There is also Google for education (www.google.com/edu) which allows you to access educational apps such as the Google Cultural Institute where you can browse artifacts such as videos, historic letters and photographs by subject area. You can also connect with a local Google Educator Group or GEG (such as this plus.google.com/communities/111471128926630959573) comprised of educators who virtually team up to share ideas, stories and advances in technology with the goal of keeping children engaged in learning.
If Twitter is more your speed, try following teacher, blogger and writer Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) who frequently tweets about important educational tools including educational videos, apps and Google tutorials. Lastly I would be remiss if I did not mention course offerings through the Instructional Technology department at OCM BOCES (www.cnyric.org/itdpdevents.cfm). Teachers can register to take a class online or in person with an instructor who will assist with integrating technology into practice. Lastly, there is an option to attend a user group meeting through the Technology Integration Exchange Session comprised of professionals from several different backgrounds focused on sharing tools, technology and approaches to instruction.
Whatever your cup of tea or device of choice, just remember to do something to stay involved. Tweet, chat, post, blog, connect with friends, families, colleagues and most importantly your students. You will not only feel more virtually connected but you’ll likely begin to feel that true sense of connection as well, which can happen when common interests are established. Speaking of staying connected, it’s time for me to sign off as my daughter is texting me asking if she can set up an Instagram account (7 year olds, I’ll tell you-”the answer is no!”). Speaking of that maybe the next blog will have to focus on internet safety!