As an educational technologist, I am often confronted with the argument, “I am not a techy like you. I cannot do this tech stuff.” This argument has many different ways in which it is phrased…some more hostile than others. I was not born knowing this stuff. I learned by experimenting. Prior to getting the fancy degree and the credentials to boast that I am an “educational technologist,” I was inexperienced and just trying things out to make my life easier, my students lives easier and to support learning on both sides. Since everybody loves a good list, I have compiled my survival strategy into a nice little list of rules to follow.
1. Don’t Police
This rule is stated first because it is the most important. The rest of the list is not ordered so well. However, this one is on top for a reason! If you want to sabotage your own plan to become more technologically advanced in your pedagogy, this will do it. While gathering facts and stats on how and when students are accessing documents, resources and making sure they are doing what they are supposed to is important; you can drive yourself crazy in the process. Remember, before technology, students weren’t doing homework, engaging, behaving, etc. With technology, it will be the same. Sometimes the stats are important to guide the conversation, but don’t religiously watch them. Let students have a bit of freedom to choose when, where and how they engage in the content.
Remember this simple rule, if they are learning…it doesn’t matter how. For example, in the flipped learning environment, I encounter educators who don’t want to use ed.ted.com because they can’t see what questions the students are answering and if they are getting them right or wrong. Simply talk to them in class and you will know if they understand the materials. Perhaps they are reading the book and not watching the video…that’s OK. Nothing will sabotage your plans to be more technologically apt in teaching than policing!
The other argument that I hear in this area is that we must moderate posts on the Learning Management pages before they go live to the class. This inhibits discussion and expression in the class. You can’t be there all night long approving and denying posts. The argument sounds like, “they [the students] could post something inappropriate and then everybody will see it.” This is true, but their name is next to it. They have actually made your life easier…they put it in writing! My counter argument here is that they can also stand up in class and say, or do, something inappropriate. You cannot stop them when they are determined. Save yourself some angst with the technology implementation and deal with it when it happens. Just remind them that what they post is still in the classroom, even if they are at home. You will be surprised at what does not happen on the inappropriate side and what does happen on the learning side without the intervention!
2. Use Google & YouTube
Shhhhh! Don’t tell the IT people I told you this, but that is exactly what they are doing when you call them to ask them a question. There is no possible way that all us “techies” have the knowledge and understanding to know every system, software or hardware configuration that exists. Therefore, we rely on others that have been there before us. We Google and YouTube (if I may make YouTube a verb) what we are looking to do. That is also what the students are doing. They are using information much differently than we did…they have been exposed to a different stimuli earlier than we were. They understand the power of Google...you and I tend to forget it exists when we are looking for things.
3. Don't Stick to what you Know
Comfort will never equal innovation. That is a big statement and very deep! It is probably too much for such a low placement in the list. However, let that sink in. Get used to the discomfort. You will find yourself figuring out some pretty amazing ways of doing things. This is advice that applies outside of the technology realm, too!
For example, say you want to make a video and you want somebody else’s video to be embedded. You may have to use a feature of three different software packages to trick the computer into doing what you want it to do. Think of each step individually and what will help you get the job done.
4. Don’t have a backup plan
This flies in the face of everything we were taught! However, having a backup plan does two things:
a. allows you to abandon too quickly
b. doesn’t show the students learning in action
I feel that point a is self-explanatory, so let us focus on point b. Students will get to see you struggle a bit and this allows them to watch you problem solve. They can also get in on the action. If in the end you still have to abandon your original plan…talk about reasons this didn’t go well with the students. Use the opportunity to talk about things you forgot to consider, or how the power makes the computers work! Also, even after the discussion, you can have the students discuss things they could do instead and they can take a bit of ownership for crafting the learning space. While it feels like a failed attempt at learning…it really isn’t. Ask your students to reflect on what happened and what they learned in the moment for an exit slip. You will see that most learned something…maybe not today’s lesson, but something important was translated to them.
5. Let Them Teach
When in doubt…work with the students and make them teach you how to do it. They will relish the experience! They love to have more knowledge than the teacher. Don’t just make them do it for you, but make them teach you along the way. Sure, it slows you down; but they are watching you model their own behavior and learning tasks. They get to see you ask questions and be vulnerable. WOW!