July 10th, 2013
Welcome back to another great post in our 2013 Summer Blogstitute series, this time from Lee Ann Spillane who admits that at one time she was afraid of “breaking the computer” while playing around with technology. The good new is, you can’t really break the computer. In this post Lee Ann shares some ideas for using the summer as your time to explore technology and how you can use it in your classroom.
Summer’s golden hours are here. I am going to spend my diamond minutes lavishly learning what I want to learn. To prepare for summer and the extravagance of time, I stockpile books to read, bookmark tutorials, browse Pinterest, and gather supplies. This summer I’m considering moving my classroom web page. The software I’ve been using to create it keeps crashing, and I want to shift from a static page to a page students can create with me. My students and I have been able to collaborate in our Bear English Ning space, but it’s getting expensive. I know a wiki would allow me to cocreate resources with students, but I’m not sure it will satisfy my design desires. I have a lot to learn, and I’m excited about the adventure ahead.
There was a time, though, when I hesitated. I was afraid I’d mess up the computer. I didn’t want to break it, so I didn’t play around too much.
Making It Work: Getting Beyond “I’m Afraid I’ll Break It”
Cleaning up my computer’s desktop one day, I right-clicked on the recycle bin. Right-click. Delete. I did it without thinking. I wanted to empty the recycle bin and free up some memory. Instead I deleted the entire recycle bin. It disappeared from my desktop. Once I realized what I had done, I was frustrated. How do you resurrect a recycle bin? I couldn’t just do without one, so I Googled a solution and found an answer on a discussion board. I followed the steps and replaced my recycle bin on my desktop, no harm done. Mistakes happen.
When I first started learning how to use the computer, I was nervous. Scared to break an expensive machine, I would freeze or sometimes avoid a task if I wasn’t sure which programs to use or how to use them. I was so afraid of breaking the computer that I couldn’t learn. Eventually, I realized that unless I threw the computer out the window or on the floor, my fumbling around in programs wasn’t going to break the machine. That freed me. To learn new technologies or tools, we have to set aside our fears—we have to be willing to try things, seek solutions, test, and ask for help. We have to play. We will make mistakes. We will probably delete things we shouldn’t. Failure is part of learning. Getting lost in the new landscape will happen. Reframe your thinking and let yourself explore.
It’s About the Teaching, Not the Tool
Integrating technology into your instructional routines changes teaching and learning. Technology fundamentally changes what we can do in the classroom. Innovating technology changes how you teach. Using a document camera and a laptop makes sharing or publishing student work immediate and accessible. Imagine crafting a mini-lesson on effective transitions between ideas in a personal essay using a draft a student has written just moments before. Or creating and publishing a short video to review a skill or concept students need, in under five minutes in the middle of class. That kind of teaching—the kind of teaching that assesses and adjusts to students’ needs in the midst of learning—becomes much easier through the use of technology. Be innovative. Figure out ways to empower yourself and your students.
Try One Thing
Set a goal and mark a course to a new place. My family is about to head out on a long road trip. We’ve updated the GPS. We have smartphone backup and maps packed. We want to learn how to geocache. My twelve-year-old is bringing a handheld GPS to use on the trip. Inspired by Hank Green, my son is looking forward to some fun. Learning is part of that fun. He could use a geocaching app on his iTouch or on a retired iPhone we inherited, but he wants to use the handheld. He and my husband are planning to learn how to use it while we drive north. They’re not afraid to break the tool; they’re excited to find the treasure—a hidden cache they can add to and log.
When my students reflected on our year together, they wrote about lessons learned. I wrote about their reflections here. On the exam, I asked students to write about one lesson they learned when using technology this year. Some wrote about royalty-free images, some about help videos I posted online, some about writing publicly on their blogs. Many wrote about the difference Google Drive made in their academic lives. My school is on the cusp of Title I classification. More than seventy percent of our students receive free and or reduced lunch benefits. Not one of my students came to my class knowing how to create, edit, save, or print documents (or presentations or spreadsheets or . . .) using Google Drive. Many did not have printers at home, and flash drives were often shared among friends. I am continually amazed at what students do not know, but my students don’t need amazement or complaint. Students need us to act, to teach. We all need different lessons. Using Google Drive—formerly Google documents—seemed so yesterday. Not to my students. Maybe not to you either.
Learning new tools or technologies is a road trip—some are planned, some spontaneous. When I want to learn, I set a goal, a destination. To get there, I explore and follow the road signs—bookmarking tutorials, attending trainings, or downloading podcasts that explain processes I want to learn. I learn the landscape and take note of the landmarks.
As you learn this summer, don’t worry about getting lost. Enjoy the learning along the way.
Lee Ann Spillane is the author of the Read & Watch book Reading Amplified.
Last week’s winner of a free book is Jenny. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free Stenhouse book! Also, you can use code BLOG on the Stenhouse website to receive 20% off and free shipping on your order.