Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What the Tech? Why Implement Technology in My Classroom?

Cell phones at each desk? An iPad for every student? Students solving math problems on computers instead of with paper and pencils? Classes going on virtual online field trips to all kinds of exotic locations? Technology in the classroom can look like all these scenarios and more. Implementing new technology in schools is a hot topic right now, but how important is it?

Educators have the important responsibility of teaching students to embrace lifelong learning by surrounding them with opportunities to learn in many different ways. Including many types of technology in your curriculum can bring you closer to this goal by helping equip your students with the knowledge to use these tools, in school or at home. After graduation, students will have plenty of opportunities to continue learning as long as they have the skills to access the learning and the drive to continue to learn. Implementing new technology tools may feel overwhelming, especially if you are wary of teaching your students with tools that you may not fully understand yourself.

The National Technology Education Plan from the U.S. Department of Education outlines the importance of using technology in education and includes a variety of examples of ways educators have successfully integrated technology throughout different subject areas. If you are like many busy teachers today, you have aspirations of bringing all kinds of great tools and technology into your class…if you could only find the time. Reading the “Learning: Engage and Empower” section of the plan is a very good place to start. It won’t take long, and it may even have some ideas you can quickly implement in the small amount of free time you have available. Joann has collected more technology ideas and we will be featuring them throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Why should you worry about implementing technology anyway? Here are three reasons that I gleaned from the plan:

1. USE THE TOOLS STUDENTS KNOW AND LOVE. Students are surrounded by technology in just about every aspect of their lives. They love it, and many of them race home from school to spend time on their computers, play on their game systems, text on their phones and more. Why not make these activities part of their school day as well?“ According to a national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds today devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media in a typical day—more than 53 hours a week (Kaiser Family Foundation 2009). The opportunity to harness this interest and access in the service of learning is huge.” National Technology Education Plan

2. IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO TEACH A CHILD. Educators are not always experts in every subject they teach. They can teach their students everything they know, but there might be someone else out there who can bring a different insight into the subject for your students. “Technology provides access to a much wider and more flexible set of learning resources than is available in classrooms and connections to a wider and more flexible set of "educators," including teachers, parents, experts, and mentors outside the classroom.” National Technology Education Plan

3. STUDENTS TAKE OWNERSHIP OF REAL-WORLD, PERSONALIZED LEARNING. “Personalized learning supports student learning in areas of particular interest to them… Technology also gives students opportunities for taking ownership of their learning.” National Technology Education Plan

Now you have some reasons to implement technology into your teaching, but how do you figure out what kind of tools are right for you and your students? I enjoy reading blogs by other educators and being involved in discussions with other teachers on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. I have come across so many great tools this way. It’s amazing how much you can learn from other people who you may never meet face to face.

One blog, Free Technology for Teachers, by Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) features free resources and lesson plans for teaching with technology. His blog was especially useful to me this week, since he featured 11 tech resources for a particular subject each day. I was especially intrigued by his recommendations of 11 science tools to try in 2011, but his resource suggestions in the other subject areas are definitely worth checking out, too. Be sure to browse through his blog to find tools that might work for you.

Another blog where I often find great websites, resources, and tools is iLearn Technology by Kelly Tenkely (@ktenkely), an educator with a passion for integrating technology into every classroom. She is constantly posting new ideas to try with students of all different ages. I have found games, ideas, and web tools on her blog that I might not have discovered otherwise.

I may be biased, but I think The Gateway to 21st Century Skills: Making the Most of Online Resources is also a valuable blog to follow in your journey to bring more technology into your classroom. Our blog is an archive of the columns we post on The Gateway every week. Each weekly topic includes free resources to support learning in that area. If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll get even more resources and tips every day, and you can request topics that you would like to see us cover. We are here for you, and we want to make your teaching journey productive. We will continue to post, re-post, tweet, and re-tweet great technology ideas on our social networking sites. When Joann comes across good resources for technology integration, she catalogues them on The Gateway as well so you can always search for them there.

In Joann’s post this week, she urged educators to get “ConnectED.” What better way is there to do this than to connect with other teachers online through blogs and social networks? This type of collaboration brings you a much wider community of educators than you can find in your school or district alone. In his interview with Tech & Learning, John Wilson, NEA’s Executive Director, stressed the importance of working together to bring technology into our classrooms. How do you feel about the technology in your classroom right now? Where do you look for support when you are trying to implement new tools? Do you have any advice for other teachers who want to connect with other educators to bring the education of their students to a new level? Please join our conversations and help us all learn to use tools that make our classrooms an ideal learning environment for our students.

~Peggy's Corner - 1/6/2011~

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