Embrace the learning curve: One reason children learn additional languages more easily than adults do is that they’re willing to speak the target language without fear of sounding childish. The same is true of technology. One of the things that holds us back is fear of looking foolish. Do you remember the feeling you had when you had been teaching a few years and thought back about your first year teaching? Were you like me and wished you could go apologize to the poor kids who had you for a teacher that year? You’ll feel the same way about technology! You will work with it for a while and then realize that what you’d done before was terrible, but that’s okay. It’s exactly the way the pattern goes.
Make sure it’s the right fit: Keep in mind that technology is for the classroom, not the classroom for the technology. Don’t just throw technology tools or projects or apps in because you feel pressured to do so. Invite it in, and feel free to invite it to leave when that’s what’s best. Use technology when it will do at least two of these things: enhance the product, differentiate learning, save time, reduce stress, invite creativity, develop skills, meet a standard. If it can’t do at least two of these things, it’s perhaps not the best tool at that time.
Walk before you run: You can easily become overwhelmed with the wide range of technology tools available, including social media. Sometimes, we’ll get excited about it and jump in with both feet before we’re really ready and then quit in the same way people sometimes do with fitness plans. A slow and steady pace is best to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed. A great place to start is to follow some blogs for awhile and get a feel for the language and trends. If you see a tool or method mentioned multiple times, it might be worth a deeper look. Here are some great places to start: Cool CatTeacher; Edu Blogger; Richard Byrne; Erin Klein; Keith Ferrell.
Curation isn’t just for museums anymore: You will quickly learn that you will need an organization method. This can be as simple as notecards with the tech tool tip written down on it, along with a description, all the way to an app or other tech help. Whatever works for you is what’s best, but make sure you pick something or you will forget many of the great ideas you pick up.
Here are some options for you: Pinterest: Set up different boards for different kinds of technology. Possible boards would include: apps, tech for student products, teacher helps, websites to follow, to explore, and tutorials and helps. Visit Erin Klein’s Pinterest for Teachers for ideas on how to use Pinterest in the classroom. Diigo: Diigo lets you build a personal library of information that is stored in the cloud (not on your computer so you can access it anywhere). It even has virtual sticky notes. One real benefit is that allows you to archive web pages, so you will never encounter a dead link again on something you really need. Feedly: Feedly funnels all of the websites you follow into one site, allowing you to see at a glance what’s new. You can create categories for the different sites. Very easy to use and a great way to keep up without going crazy. MyFaves: It’s simple to use MyFaves to make your virtual desktop a repository of the sites you use most in a visually appealing way. Other sites, like Symballoo, also do this. So just pick the one you like best. I find MyFaves to be the most clean-looking, which is important to me. Evernote: You can take and organize notes in Evernote, of course, but it also lets you save, share, and mark up webpages. You can share marked-up webpages, too, which is quite handy. Copy: Like Dropbox, Copy lets you save files in the Cloud and share them. Google docs is great, too, but if you have a need for something else (plays better with your device, want to open the document in the actual program rather than Google docs, looks prettier, etc.), Copy is my favorite.
Tutorials are your friend. If you find a tool you’d like to use, but you’re not sure how or the site itself isn’t fully explanatory, tutorials are at your fingertips on Pinterest, TeacherTube, SchoolTube , and of course, YouTube. Pinterest has a terrible search feature, so use your favorite search engine and search “pinterest fill-in-the-blank tutorial” to find what you want. Chances are, if you want to try it, someone’s made a tutorial for you. Look through a couple of tutorials before you try it if you’re nervous to build confidence and familiarity.
Join a community: Whether it’s virtual or in real life, find a group of educators with whom to share ideas and experiences. If you’re into social media, you can find them easily on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any of the other myriad social media platforms. Twitter works especially well for learning tech, and you can find out lots more about how teachers can use it at Edudemic’s Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers. Technology doesn’t need to be intimidating. With these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to using technology in a way that helps your students and makes you feel comfortable.Disclaimer & Credit Love: Some of this material previously appeared on my website, giftedguru, and the images are from my fave source for free images, Pixabay. I created the images with the text in Picmonkey, a terrific free image editing site.
Lisa Van Gemert, Mensa Gifted Youth Specialist, designs and creates programs for gifted children, develops curriculum for gifted children, and interfaces with parents regarding educational concerns. Her published articles focus on the social and emotional needs of gifted students, and her speaking engagements include both national and international keynotes. Lisa creates and curates the Mensa for Kids website as well as her own site, Gifted Guru.