“The day is almost done. Don’t cry until they leave.” Those words echoed in my mind as I stood there watching my class. I stopped talking. I stopped teaching. It was my first year of teaching and I was exhausted, drained, and burned out. I realized I was the Charlie Brown teacher. I was playing “sage on the stage” but all my students were hearing was, “wah wah wah wah.” I questioned my ability. I questioned my future as an educator. I had to choose: quit or change.
Well, six years later, I’m still teaching. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.” Challenges are opportunities to learn something new about ourselves. That first year was insanely challenging. But it started me on an incredible journey of discovery. The challenges I faced pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the realm of ed tech and innovation. These challenges ignited my teacher soul in ways I didn’t know I needed!
If it had been easy, technology integration might never have crossed my mind. However, I quickly learned that traditional teaching wasn’t working for me or my students. Something had to change, and ed tech was the avenue that revolutionized my classroom. It wasn’t an overnight success. There were plenty of bumps and a whole lot of crazy adventures (and there still are). But the payoff is worth it. If you’re standing at the edge intimidated by the leap, that means it’s time to do it. Effective technology integration is a game changer. Don’t wait any longer!
Increase Student Engagement
I needed to get away from the front of the room and put the learning and ownership in my students’ hands. Nearpod was the first tool I encountered that facilitated this shift. Its many different interactive features make formative assessment instantaneous, which makes it easy to adapt lessons to meet student needs. Sharing student work allows my students to analyze and discuss what they have done well and what they could do better. They identify and learn from mistakes from themselves and their peers. Leading the lesson from my iPad, I am no longer a prisoner of the front board. Finally, I can move around the room, helping students on the spot, checking in as we discuss and work. It has changed the dynamics of my classroom!
Nearpod was only the beginning for me. A plethora of options exist to increase engagement. Tools such as Kahoot! and Quizizz bring an element of competition and fun. These tools are used to assess prior knowledge or review concepts, either whole group or independently. They excite students about winning with knowledge while giving you feedback to adjust instruction. Put the learning in your students’ hands and empower their voice with tools like FlipGrid. Give them the opportunity to explain, make connections, discover, and teach each other. Putting a worksheet on a device isn’t revolutionary, but switching up the way students interact with the information can be. Using ed tech isn’t about what you use, it’s about how you use it.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
There’s an abundance of tools available, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed. Don’t. Choose one tool and try it out. Don’t give up when it glitches or the internet goes down or any of the other million things that could happen, happen. Be patient…with the tech, with your students, and with yourself. And always ask for help…from anyone, including your students. Support equals survival!
Share Your Experiences
The first time I used Nearpod effectively (there were some definite misses along the way), I was bursting to tell anyone and everyone. It was an exciting shift. You’ll have those moments, too, so be sure to share your experiences. You might be the spark for a colleague who has been standing at the edge intimidated by the same leap. As you get your ed tech footing and begin experimenting with different tools, you’ll also realize it’s just as important to share the missteps as it is to share your successes. Use your voice and experience to empower others!
Embrace the Journey
I had no idea how much technology would change my professional journey. This adventure has connected me with people from all over the world. It has opened opportunities that I might never have considered before, like pursuing a degree in educational technology leadership. To be completely honest, there are ups and downs. Sometimes you’ll feel like a rock star and other times you’ll feel full of self-doubt. You may question what you have to contribute because others are doing incredible things. Embrace the words of Simon Sinek: “Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle.” It’s your journey, own it!
Ed tech changed me and reignited my passion for teaching. How will it change you?
This is a guest blog by Karen Vallente. Karen is a middle school Algebra teacher in San Antonio, Texas who constantly pushes herself outside her comfort zone and loves learning new ways to engage students in authentic, meaningful learning experiences!