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Investing in Technology Means Investing in Teachers

By Lois Page, Mary Anne Mather, and Kevin P. Dwyer, Simply Teach Tech


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Many educators noticed this recent Twitter post (shared below) and passed it on to others. The graphic it points to, based on the work of Ellen Mandinach and Hugh Cline, makes the point that as teacher confidence with technology grows, so grows the impact it delivers as a tool for student learning. Savvy education leaders understand that meaningful professional development must be an essential element in any technology plan—and not just training on how a tech tool works, but specific examples about how it supports teaching excellence.

Via Twitter, November 2013:RT @principalspage Poster shows teacher confidence in #edtech. Admins: crucial that staff get proper PD. http://t.co/yXdeAZA38P


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Simply Tech Tech recently saw this understanding revealed first-hand in Mexico: In a picture perfect setting—an historic Hacienda outside Mexico City—Simply Teach Tech met with educators from more than 40 Mexican private schools. The beauty of the surroundings never faded, but the purpose of the work soon took our full attention. We were there to help teachers effectively use technology to support student learning. In some cases, the biggest challenge facing participants was the limited technology available in individual classrooms. With that in mind, we shared hands-on activities designed to model how technology can have big impact, even with limited resources.

We focused on a three interlinked ideas to frame the use of technology in the classroom: presentation, collaboration, and assessment.

By focusing on purpose, rather than technology, we hoped that participants would leave with a strong message that the technology is always secondary to teaching and learning goals and objectives.

The technologies available to teachers in many of the participating schools are a single computer, an LCD projector, and Internet access in each classroom. Even in that context, there are many free and low-cost technology tools and opportunities available that can enrich lessons and learning. Participants tried out a sampling of these resources and discussed immediate applications in classrooms at all levels for presentation, collaboration, and assessment.

First, we explored using Google Drive (http://www.google.com/drive/about.html), a powerful tool that enables students to co-create and share documents at any time from any computer. For instance, students can get instant feedback from peer collaborators on writing assignments and then publish their final papers directly to the Web.

We helped each participant set up a free Symbaloo account (http://www.symbalooedu.com/). With Symbaloo, teachers can readily organize and share website lists related to any content area or unit of study. Students can use the teacher-created lists as project research references and study tools, or they can co-create their own lists related to an assigned topic. Teachers can also use Symbaloo to generate and share website lists for professional collaboration and peer learning.

Next we had participants join ePals (http://www.epals.com/#!/main) where teachers can virtually take a class to the top of Mount Everest or to a beach in Florida to study marine life. Once session participants saw the power of the ePals Global Community and the ease of communication through its safe, secure email system, they were hooked on how simple it is to bring authentic learning into the classroom by connecting with experts or sharing and comparing information with other classes around the world.

And one last activity had everyone buzzing with ideas. Most teachers, and even most students, have access to a Smart Phone. We engaged in an animated discussion about how to take advantage of any Smart Phone’s camera feature. We identified ways to use the Smart Phone to take a nature walk and create a class photo journal, how to document family history, or how to create an electronic art gallery. The ideas were creative and enticing.

The participants in our session were coordinators who work at multiple sites. Their discussions revolved around how they could take an active leadership role to help teachers use these resources to serve the unique needs of each of their schools—both in upper and lower school settings.

A coordinator of pre-schools instantly saw the benefit of using the digital camera, and a high school science coordinator wanted to know more about using the technology resources to support a flipped classroom model(http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/).

Perhaps the greatest take-away from the workshop was not at all about the technology. These coordinators came away understanding the need for sustained, hands-on ed-tech professional development for their teachers. As one participant said, “Our school has just implemented iPads, but our teachers really don’t know how to make the best use of them. This workshop opened our eyes to the need for training.”

For more ideas and specific examples of how to enrich lessons with even limited technology, see the November issue (http://www.simplyteachtech.com) of INTERACTIVE, Simply Teach Tech’s electronic newsletter.

If you are interested in receiving ongoing technology-inspired learning news, pointers to free and low-cost technology applications, and ideas for how to integrate technology into classrooms in ways that support high quality teaching and learning, take a moment to:

• Follow @simplyteachtech on Twitter (http://twitter.com/simplyteachtech). • Sign up to receive INTERACTIVE, Simply Teach Tech’s free electronic newsletter that highlights tips and techniques for interactive teaching and special offers and opportunities for learning more about effective classroom technology use.

About Simply Teach Tech:

Simply Teach Tech is a team of professionals with decades of experience in teaching, training and educational technology. Our goal is to work with schools to bring focus to the use of educational hardware, software and services. We have deep roots in education and educational technology and have worked with schools across the world. We enjoy sharing our experience and are ready to offer practical, real-world insights that can be applied immediately.

We offer products from leading companies including Mimio Interactive Technologies, ePals, Adapative Curriculum and Symbaloo. We support these products with in-school and online workshops as well as providing a growing collection of on-demand resources available through our website.

Contact: Lynn Notarainni +1 617.388.4127

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