I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend. I had a family-filled week of engagement excitement. Last week, one of my pieces was featured on EdVoices.com so I figured I would share it on EdGeeks today for those of you who have not read it. The piece is near and dear to my heart as it approaches an issue that is often neglected: teachers who don’t feel comfortable using technology. A special shout out to EdVoices, one of my go-to sites for great ed news!
I left the classroom in September to pursue my interest in education innovation and technology. It saddens me that I had to leave the classroom to pursue these interests but while I was in the classroom, I found myself overloaded with responsibilities. At points I felt that my teaching practice was confined to my city, my school, or worse, the four walls of my classroom. I just didn’t have the time to think outside of my city, or to learn new things and that was starting to scare me. It has been an interesting journey filled with education conferences, Skype sessions with teachers across the country, and talks with various EdTech startups. One of the key ideas I have learned through my research over the past few months is that there is a great divide between EdTech entrepreneurs and educators. The essential question I find myself asking all the time is: “How can we merge the two?”
There are two kinds of teachers today, the tech guru and the tech terrified. During the first panel at the NY EdTech Mashup on April 30th, Rhena Jasey exemplified the exact teacher that entrepreneurs need to target: the tech terrifiedteacher. Many educational events appeal to educators who are already interested in technology. What about the larger population of teachers who live in fear of it?
Rhena shared about how intimidating and overwhelming it was to be in a room full of “techies.” The idea of incorporating technology into the classroom is daunting for teachers like Rhena, who have never had an office job or been expected to use technology to boost efficiency. I know this because I was one of these teachers for a long time. I lived in fear of Smartboards and the laptop cart because I knew that even the smallest malfunction could throw off my lesson, leading to potential chaos amongst my students. I felt incredibly frustrated when an admistrator asked me to use a new website, software program or device in my classroom.
Over the past two years, I have gone through a transformation process. Luckily, I feel much more comfortable in the tech space these days, but I haven’t forgotten the tech terrified teacher-friends I have left behind, and I want to do everything I possibly can to support them. Being a great teacher looks very different in the 21st Century and there is no reason that as our world evolves, our teachers can’t evolve with it. That doesn’t mean “no more pencils or crayons,” but it does mean finding a place for using technology to captivate students. As always, balance is the key.
5 Tips for the Tech Terrified Teacher
- Remember, it’s not about you! Your discomfort with technology impacts your students’ futures. Teachers need to be preparing students for the world we live in today. So many jobs are dependent on a basic understanding of technology. Always ask yourself, “am I teaching something that is obsolete, or something that will help my students in the future that lies ahead?”
- Don’t resist your tech guru teacher-friend: It is difficult to ask for help but partnering up with a tech guru teacher-friend can provide a support system that can help ease your transition from tech terrified to tech curious.
- Realize it’s okay if you are not in control: In reflection, I realize that a major reason that I resisted tech for so long is because I feared what would happen if I was no longer in control…but it is okay if the tech malfunctions. In fact it can lead to some pretty teachable moments.
- Let your students teach you something: Newsflash – if you think you are the omnipotent force in your classroom, think again! Kids know a lot these days and it can boost their confidence and engagement if you call on students for support.
- If you find a product you like, ask someone from the company to come visit – Tech startups want you to use their products so most likely if you send an email, they will answer any questions you have or maybe even come visit your school to teach you how to use their product.
5 Simple Tech Tools for the Tech Terrified Teacher: A starting point
- Get a Gmail account! This may sound silly but once you have a Gmail account for your email, you begin to feel more comfortable with the Google way. This will pave the way to using Google Docs, surveys, and other fun tools to make you more efficient in your classroom.
- Figment – For those of you who teach ELA, reading or writing, Figment is a fun and easily accessible tool. It is an online community of young writers. The educator feature allows teachers to create private groups where students can interact and offer peer-to-peer feedback on their writing.
- TEDed – There are a few options for educational videos these days including Khan Academy, YouTube for Teachers and TEDed, which launched recently. TEDed offers visual videos made by teachers and animators.
- BrainPOP – Has engaging videos in a variety of content areas but I particularly recommend this tool for math teachers.
- Mentormob – This tool allows you to curate content from the Internet into an engaging playlist that you can share with your students. The interface is hip so it is great for middle school or high school students. You can click on each track in the playlist to go back to the original source. I use this tool to support students in strengthening their research skills.
Until we actively start addressing the discomfort that teachers like Rhena feel in the edtech space, we will not be successful in moving our teachers or students into the 21st Century. We need to work on finding ways to support the teachers who feel intimidated by technology so I’ll end with two questions:
1. Dear Tech Terrified Teachers: What can we do to support you?
2. Dear EdTechies: How do you do outreach to tech terrified teachers and engage them?