by Kate Baker and Christopher Bronke
That is the number of Google hits you would get if you did a search for “Ed Tech.” To say that this phrase can be overwhelming to teachers is an understatement. Those who love it may get overwhelmed by trying to stay up and current with all the changes, and those who are hesitant to embrace it may be confused by where, and more importantly, why to start.
We get it; we have and continue to deal with both of those emotions. However, had we never embraced educational technology, this blog would never have been written, and more importantly, we would have never met. We are a pair of colleagues from CEL who, like many others, met first digitally through Twitter and continued to develop a professional connection that is both face-to-face and virtual. It is not our hopes that you leave this piece going out into the digital world to try to find a writing partner and/or expecting to connect with others instantly; however, we do want to leave you with five tips to empower your students and teachers to do more, be more with ed tech. We hope you and your colleagues explore the possibilities of learning with educational technology.
- Kate says, “use tech to….enliven the study of canonical texts by creating opportunities for collaboration, which focuses on cross-curricular learning and flipped delivery of instruction.” Pairing geography and literature, students can pin pertinent locations featured in a text on a shared Google Map or apply mathematical line graphing to plot diagrams as in this example. Using blended and flipped instructional design, students can explore, explain, and apply their understanding of the content via a teacher-created hyperdoc such as this one or demonstrate their understanding of reading using DocentEDU, a web-based tool that allows teachers to embed questions, discussions, and instructional elements on almost any web page or Google Doc. Ultimately, your chosen edtech tool is a bridge between the student and the curricular text. Take a look at the texts taught in your class and devise ways in which your instruction and projects can be shifted to an online, blended format.
- Chris says, “use tech to…assist grade-level teams or PLC to stay better organized and more efficient in compiling and sharing resources.” This could be as simple as setting up folders for each team in Google Drive or as expansive as using a site like Blendspace in which teachers can search, drag, and store resources (everything from website to videos) for upcoming lessons, units, or professional learning. This doesn’t need to be rocket science, but teachers don’t always have the time to think about organizational systems, so as a leader, consider using technology to help them with this.”
- Kate says, “use tech to… reach each student and showcase students’ talents.” It is easy to include extroverted students during face to face class time, but what about using technology to reach introverted and disaffected students? Whether it is through backchannel communication with Remind or participating in an Edmodo community writing group such as Scribe City or using Google Voice Typing for reluctant writers, students can be given a voice and an opportunity to engage in their learning. I saw the power of edtech when my gifted, but exceptionally quiet student, Maddie became an online writing mentor, sharing her work and providing feedback to classmates in our class Edmodo group and when Ray, a disaffected student who hid in the back corner of the classroom, earned his first A in his academic career the semester we gamified our study of The Odyssey. Because I was willing to explore various edtech methods of instruction, I was able to reach the students who were overwhelmed in traditional face to face learning experiences.
- Chris says, “use tech to… empower teachers to own their professional development.” When I talk to teachers about why they should create a Twitter account the most common response I get is, “but I don’t have anything to share that people would want to read.” And while that, in and of itself is flawed (we ALL have great content to share), my more important reply is that Twitter is much more than a place to share; it is a place to LEARN. So, you don’t need to amass followers or share every detail of your classroom to reap the benefits of Twitter. Create an account and follow a few key educational authors like Penny Kittle, Chris Lehman, or Troy Hicks, or key organizations like NCTE or ASCD. Worst case, use it to get your news by following handles like Associated Press. If you really want to push your learning, you could even follow along (or join) a chat like #flipclass, #edtech, #engchat, #celchat, and so many more. You will quickly learn that while you may have thought you didn’t have time for Twitter, you now don’t have time NOT to be on Twitter.
- Kate and Chris say, … Don’t be afraid to explore with Ed Tech. Educational technology is not Skynet, usurping control of classrooms. Teachers won’t be replaced by Terminators (although this angle would make for an interesting satirical piece…..that is for another time!). It, like so many other tools we use to reach our students and teachers, is just one more way we can help bring learning to life.
Kate Baker is a high school English teacher at Southern Regional High School in New Jersey. Read more of her amazing work on her blog: http://kbakerbyodlit.blogspot.com.
Christopher Bronke is English Department Chair in Downers Grove, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter: @MrBronke and check out his blog: www.medium.com/@mrbronke.