Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just Jump In

   Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.                                                                                                            – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs

     Recently I finished up some technology-based classes. For those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I take classes in technology. I’m fascinated with the potential. I’ve found I can’t out think, out dream, or out imagine how I could use technology in the classroom. Taking these types of classes, I believe,  help me become a better teacher.
      What is it about hardware and software and mechanical gadgets that enthralls me? Several things. One, I can use them to differentiate instruction for students.Not just modifying down but also modifying up the scale, offering more advanced students a challenge comparable to their abilities.
     Another reason I prefer to utilize these tools is that they often lead to engagement. Students need to be 21st century ready when they leave high school. What does that mean? To me it’s a fancy way of saying they need to learn how to think analytically, how to work with others, how to think beyond paper, and how to communicate—verbally and in the written form. Honestly? I think these are huge, especially thinking and communicating. My goal as a teacher has always been to get my students to think, to analyze, to use logic, to pick an idea apart, looking  for logical fallacies. As they learn to think, they also learn to write. Again, using logic, using critical thinking skills, and writing to defend or persuade. These are the hardest skills I’ve found to teach but the most important.
     A third reason for using technology in the classroom is to prepare students for the world around them, for life after high school. My redundant words echo the importance of learning to be comfortable with technology. By exposing my students to a variety of online programs, different computing devices, and a myriad of learning opportunities in different formats, I am able to arm them with skills to navigate the technological pathway. They won’t be intimidated when facing new programs but easily experiment and learn how to work them.
     I want my students to learn how to work as a team, looking  to others to augment their own work. One project involved learning to create a digital magazine. Students worked together, learning that in publishing there’s an order. When one part of that order stalls, it forces others working on different parts to stall as well. Students worked as a team, proofing each other’s work, assisting each other in the layout and design process, and critically analyzing the artwork needed and choosing what worked well with a written piece. Because this was a publication that would be available online and in hard copy format, students took extra pains to make sure what they produced was their best.
     Finally, I believe technology offers students the opportunity to think critically in terms of troubleshooting glitches. Who hasn’t had a technology malfunction? I’ve had more than my share and they regularly seem to occur when I really need to get something done. My tech support (husband) isn’t  always available to help me troubleshoot the problem. Where do I go? Google, of course. I can usually find answers on the internet. When students encounter problems, I look at it as a learning opportunity and ask questions that will hopefully help them understand the steps in troubleshooting problems.
     People toss around the phrase, at least in education, “life-long learner.” Because of the rapidity of the changes in the technological world, for those who immerse themselves in technology, they will become just that—learners in an ever-changing world.
     I’ll continue to press myself to learn so I can stay current with my students and the world around me. Hopefully, making me a life-long learner. If you don’t use technology to enhance your lessons, consider it. Take the jump. The water’s initially a shock, but you get used to it. Trust me on this. Just jump in.

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