Tech Be Nimble
So here you are. You've been teaching for two or ten or twenty years and suddenly someone hands you an iPad (or a Chromebook or a laptop or a classroom with a SmartBoard...really, any new technology). If you're lucky, the device came with months of in-depth training, co-teaching opportunities with an experienced technology trainer, and a gradual wading in to a comfortable depth of technology integration. But if you're a typical teacher, your device probably came with a not-so-gentle shove into the deep end: a "district mandate" or "a 21st century skills initiative" or you got your device a week before every student in the school did, with training promised for the future. So what now?
In this post, I'll reference my earlier post about the SAMR model. I think the best way for teachers to get comfortable integrating technology effectively is to start gradually. Build your comfort at one level before you venture into deeper waters. Don't feel pressured into an "all or nothing" approach; in my experience, this most often leads to the nothing end of the spectrum. Or to teachers who throw lots of technology into a lesson without thinking deeply about why they're doing it. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you begin to plan lessons that incorporate technology effectively.
Substitution: the lowest level on the SAMR model and the perfect place for technology-novices to start
[Examples] students read novels on e-readers instead of having paper copies (although, in the right circumstances, this can rise to the level of Augmentation); switching from an overhead projector to an LCD projector
[Great For] Times when things are working great the way they are. Sometimes the best path is the low-tech path, especially if it's legitimately working for you and your students.
[Questions to Ask Yourself] Is there a more efficient/engaging way to do this with technology? Is there a problem I'm having with this lesson that technology could solve?
Augmentation: a step up, but still in "enhancement" territory
[Examples] going paperless by using Google Drive/Dropbox to distribute handouts; setting up a class website that's linked to your class calendar so students see assignment reminders
[Great For] Making accommodations for students, especially those with print-related disabilities (think increased font-size; reverse contrast; read-aloud software), without drawing attention to those differences. If everyone has headphones, no one will notice that some are listening to the textbook and others are listening to music. This is also the level where your life as a teacher gets easier -- automate repetitive tasks, hand over responsibility to your students ("No, I don't have an extra copy, it's on the website"), and relentlessly steal ideas from other teachers.
[Questions to Ask Yourself] Is there a way to do this that puts students more in control of/responsible for their own learning? Is there a way to make this activity more authentic?
Modification: entering "transformation" territory; significantly redesigning the task with technology
[Examples] students take a virtual museum tour and interact with primary source documents or artifacts; students interview people who have experienced homelessness and make world-changing documentary films about what they learned
[Great For] Teachers who already successfully integrate technology in the classroom and are feeling comfortable with the basics, but want to challenge themselves to redesign lessons that aren't working well or need a refresh.
[Questions to Ask Yourself] Are my students still getting a lot out of making parody Facebook pages for the characters in this novel? How can I move beyond PowerPoint presentations?
Redefinition: technology Zen-master; seamlessly redesigning the way you teach to maximize student learning and engagement and make your life easier
[Great For] Bringing it all together. You've substituted where necessary, augmented as appropriate, and even modified a few lessons. This is where you take your comfort-zone with technology integration and blow right through into uncharted territory.
[Questions to Ask Yourself] How would I teach this if time/money/the laws of the Universe were not in my way? Now, is there a way to approximate that ideal with technology?
When you reach the level of consistently redefining how you teach, you're probably customizing instruction to a level that makes any guidance I'd give here obsolete. But, if you're interested in learning more about SAMR, here's an additional resource a really smart lady (and former colleague), Jennifer Liang, shared with me: SAMR & Google Apps for Education. Thanks, Jennifer!
Needs change. Technology changes. The best educational technology stays nimble.