Throughout my teaching career I have experienced many lessons that don’t go as planned, some are average and some are a huge hit. As educators, we tell the stories of a great lesson and often keep the disasters to ourselves (depending on the audience). I can usually laugh when disaster strikes, but more often than not, I’m wondering how to avoid that disaster from striking again.
Preventing technology ‘pitfalls’ from occurring seems virtually impossible! For myself, a lot of the pitfalls and struggles I’ve had this past year are pretty consistent with the struggles of most other educators. Such as technical problems with wifi, not having enough computers for each student, lack of professional development, self-doubt, not knowing where to start or ‘How to do it?,’ trying to juggle a large group of students, and not having enough time to collaborate with staff members.
Teachers (like many other professions) have a lot to deal with in a day. It stands to reason that educators will not do everything well! We focus our attention on interest and areas of expertise! In some cases, if I am planned for the next day, I am doing well. Often, I’ve run out of gas by the end of the day and don’t have energy or time to check off items from my ‘To Do’ list like, read over blogs and regularly try to keep my students accountable.
The video; How to Use Technology in 21st Century Education provides some excellent guidelines for educators to follow when planning for their students. The beginning of the video rings very true for my school division. There was an initial investment in providing technology to schools, but the budget was depleted before providing adequate teacher training. Sure, we have educational technology experts for teachers to utilize, but it demands a lot of pre-planning on the part of the teachers. On the flip side, some teachers think nothing of it because they like to pre-plan a month or months ahead of time. What I am saying is that not all teachers are created equally, so the support provided doesn’t work for everyone. Fortunately, there are usually some teachers on staff to provide technology support and are there for you when needed. My hope is that we learn to reach out for support and ask for help or a staff member offers ideas or support for a lesson involving the use of technology.
I like how the video compares the way teachers believe they are using technology, but learn to understand that they might just be replacing old school practices rather than including it in ways that ensure student centred learning approaches. For example,
Teaching research skills rather than fact based learning that can lead to higher level learning, critical thinking and literacy skills. That it is important to understand the morals and ethics of using online content. Use of student collaboration and sharing of ideas. How to deal with criticisms, give criticism and deal with hostility on line. Many ideas for creativity in designing and sharing learning. Using software that is relevant and usable, rather than ‘Cheap Imitation Software,’ and the opportunity for students to create their own software.
Lastly, I wanted to share an article that seems very relevant for myself, as well as many educators I am sure. The 5 Problems Facing EdTech. I recommend that you take a moment to check it out (a short read).
- Schools are overcrowded.
- School spending is stagnant.
- A lack of teacher innovation.
- A lack of involvement from parents.
- Technology has become synonymous with entertainment.
The first section takes a look at overcrowded schools, which is something that I haven’t really experienced. But, I do teach a larger group in my classroom when Lisa and I separate our students for math and science. I teach 29-30 grade 4’s and she teaches 17 grade 5’s. The crazy thing is that the needs are much higher in the grade 5 group! I receive support from our Educational Assistant Ryan to support the needs (and larger size) in the grade 4 group.
The reason I am explaining this is because one of the suggestions for working with larger groups of students is basically what I have been trying out for the last couple of years (combining blended learning where face-to-face teaching is combined with online learning). Basically, I have had to divide the students into groups, just so I can include interactive activities and/or technology. Fortunately, this style of teaching has worked quite well.
As an example, consider a classroom of 30 students. Ten students with similar abilities may work closely with the teacher, another ten may work through lectures and online tasks using computer terminals, and the final ten may work together on a group project. In the next lesson, students are rotated so they can learn in different ways throughout the course.
Group work is one of my “Go To” strategies when I am faced with a larger group of students because of the way the number of students for each grade are split. It has really allowed me more time to spend helping smaller groups of students, I spend less time teaching, and it really takes the pressure off the students. This works especially well during math when there are a lot of questions and students require more explanation.
Teaching large groups of students has forced me to be more creative and careful when planning all lessons, but especially when I want to include technology. Like all educators there is some trial and error, a tweak here and there, and then repeat and try it again.
My 2 big take aways are the importance of collaborating with Lisa (and other staff members) and staying relevant and up to date with what is working well in other classrooms. There is so much support out there, through twitter, following great educator blogs, education websites, articles, apps, etc. Sometimes I just forget to take a step back, breath deeply, and think logically. Stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed often side track me from these 3 simple things.