I have done all I could to expand my classroom beyond the four walls of the building through use of technology since I first began teaching. I did this through videos, online discussions with classrooms around the world, and instant messaging to provide students with a way to communicate their questions outside of traditional school hours. As my access to technology expanded over the years, so did my practice. Access to authentic resources is indispensable for a World Languages teacher, and technology provided these experiences even when my students were unable to travel to France. This also provided an ideal set of circumstances to demonstrate both responsible and professional uses of the same technologies that students already used socially and academically.
Throughout my master’s program, I focused on helping other teachers in my school use technology to promote student engagement and to encourage deeper thinking. Consequently, I was able to share the best practices I had developed in my classroom with other teachers. Through meeting with teachers, I have realized many of them feel that technology is a box to check on their observations or something that students use on a specific day, at a specific time, in the specific way that they prescribe. Opening their eyes to how technology can be integrated seamlessly into their daily classroom is a challenge that I enjoy.
When I accepted my current position, I thought I was leaving the classroom behind. Now, the whole school is my classroom. I try to educate teachers, administrators, and students about best practices and issues pertaining to technology use and integration. At the heart of my work is introducing technology tools that will improve the great work that teachers and students are already doing, rather than simply duplicating a process that will work exactly the same as without technology without providing an additional benefit. Technology is a tool to be used just like anything else, when it is the best and most appropriate tool to achieve the desired results. Helping others to see that has allowed me to clarify my own thinking and goals.
Good technology use does not create good teachers. Good teachers use technology to become better teachers and to help their students learn and do more. Best technology practices should not be separated from best instructional practices, as using technology to improve the educational experience should be included in an educator’s pedagogical toolkit. George Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset that to “help our students thrive, we have to move past ‘the way we have always done it,’ and create better learning experiences for our students than we had for ourselves.” For me, this means changing the way that educators experience professional development.
Just as great educators differentiate and personalize the learning experience for students, so too should educators be granted options for differentiated and personalized professional development that meets their needs and respects their time. This may come through flipped training modules, blended learning sessions, online personal learning networks, or edcamp-style conferences. In all situations, technology is a tool that can be used to facilitate the best learning experience for each person. Combining educational technology with curriculum and instruction is a goal that I have not just for myself, for my school, or for my district, but for the world of education at large. No one asks how notebook paper can be integrated into schools, or why students need to learn how to use a calculator. My hope is that one day the same can be said of technology.
What interests you in the field of educational technology? How have your perceptions changed?
Cross-posted at my EdD ePortfolio.