TEACHnology Today

Technology Integration Newsletter-September 30, 2015

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Failing Forward

Have you ever heard the phrase "Failing Forward?" It sounds like one of those idealistic educational sayings that is great in theory but terrible in practice. But humor me for a moment and think back to some of your greatest accomplishments in life. Can you think of a time where everything went exactly according to plan? If you can, then you are lucky. So many of my best laid plans have gone up in smoke, and yet I don’t count those plans as failures because they taught me something. Collectively, those failures have shaped me into the teacher, mother, and person that I am today.

Can you recall a lesson that you were excited about that completely bombed? I sure can. I think we’ve all been there. As teachers, we tirelessly prepare activities and materials that we hope will engage our learners in higher levels of thinking, get them excited about the content, and promote understanding. Sometimes those preparations are well worth it and you see those light bulbs turning on when students grasp the material and invest fully in your lesson. Other times we are met with blank stares. Does that mean we give up? Absolutely not. We readjust, find a new angle, and press onward.

It’s funny, in my first few months in this new position as a technology integrationist, I was somewhat fearful that I’d lose my “teacher edge.” My ability to manage a classroom, to implement new technology, and to take risks. The very thing we ask teachers to do on a daily basis with their students. What I’m finding out is that I need to remain as sharp as ever when it comes to differentiating my instruction. I need to find a variety of technologies that serve the same purpose, because not every teacher’s situation is the same. I learn new lessons every day about the best ways to introduce new technologies to you all, and I am most definitely a work in progress. I consider myself to be “failing forward” at times. I try new things, they don’t work out as I had hoped, and I find myself back at the drawing board trying to learn from my mistakes and missteps to forge a new path. That doesn’t mean that I’m not fearful when trying something new. I experience a range of emotions every time I try something new, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have the world’s worst poker face. But I’d like to think that I become better at my job with each failure.

I’d like to think that the same process can be applied to the integration of technology in the classroom. It’s scary. If you have 20 kiddos relying on you and something doesn’t go as planned, you can find yourself scrambling. It makes it hard to want to try new things.

I came across the acronym in the image above during a Twitter chat last night, and it really resonated with me. It allowed me to reflect back on my failures and how I learned a new and valuable lesson from each one. Those times when technology failed me, or connectivity was weak, I had to troubleshoot and problem solve. It often prompted the same response in my students, who would see my panic and help me find a solution. In those moments, I was failing forward. Our second attempt at using new technology went much more smoothly, because I knew what issues to anticipate and how to solve problems as they came at me. My students also learned that things don’t always go as planned, and perhaps how to be patient with their frantic and frazzled teacher during those times! I wish you all the best of luck with your best laid plans. Please feel free to invite me into your classroom sometime, and I can help you implement new technologies with your students. The teacher in me would love to be in the classroom again, if even for an hour. Thank you for reading my ramblings, and I look forward to getting to know each of you this year.

Getting Started with Technology Integration

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Technology integration isn't necessarily a total transformation of your classroom. I don't expect teachers to insert technology into every lesson or activity! It's all about selecting the best tool for the job, and while technology fits the bill in some circumstances, it's not always the be all and end all.

Have you ever heard of the TPaCK model for technology integration? I feel that this model best illustrates how technology can be utilized to enhance learning because it prioritizes the elements of your lesson by importance. TPaCK stands for Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge.

In this model, teachers first consider their content. What is it that we want our students to know? Once your learning objectives have been ascertained, then it's time to select your pedagogy. How will we deliver this content to our students? As teachers, you know what methods work best with your students. Once you have selected your method, then it's time to choose the best technology tool that can help support your objectives and chosen methods. The technology is considered to be the "partner" that helps you to select a tool that helps make the content more accessible to the students while supporting the strategies you have selected.

When you approach lesson planning with technology in this way, you ensure that the content and pedagogy are the driving forces of a lesson, rather than choosing a technology tool and making your content or pedagogy fit the tool. Your standards and learning outcomes are the most important piece of this puzzle, and you can avoid using technology where it doesn't support your objectives.

TPACK in 2 Minutes

This Week In The Classroom

Each week, I'd like to take a moment to highlight some of the incredible things happening with technology across the district. Today, I want to share with you the awesome transformation in Gloriann Heikes' 1st grade classroom. Gloriann was selected as a 21st Century Classroom teacher last spring and has been busy transforming her classroom and developing activities all summer long! She blogged about her experiences, which has been linked below for your reading pleasure. Keep up the great work Gloriann!

Have a Twitter Account? Post it here!

Stacy Vilt had the phenomenal idea of collecting Twitter handles across the district so that we can choose to follow and learn from one another! If you have a school Twitter account, click the link below to post it and to view the responses from others. Let's build a district-wide Professional Learning Network! Thank you for your participation.
Request a Technology Integration Session Here!

Interested in integrating technology but are unsure of what to tackle first? I'd love to come and chat! We can go over your objectives for the lesson or goals for students, and I can help make a technology recommendation.