Tech Teacher of the Month
Ms. Gilmer has been teaching for 13 years and she currently teaches English 1 here at Southwood. She embraces using technology in her room. Ms. Gilmer attended 5 technology spotlights over this school year. Thank you Ms. Gilmer for allowing your students the opportunity to learn and grow with technology enhanced lessons!
Ranch Share Time
By Sarah Bruce
What are YOUR plans for the summer?
B. Lounge by the pool
C. Plan lessons
D. Get more PD
Hopefully, you added your own response of all of above. :) We, as educators, know there is hardly ever any downtime, even over the summer. We are always planning ahead for the next thing. The next day, week, month, year, meeting, group of students, assignment, professional development day, faculty meeting, whatever the case may be. Good teachers know that being good isn’t a fluke. We make this job look easy through lots of practice and lots of failures. We are flexible in our mindset, as well as flexible in our schedules since nothing ever really happens according to plan.
Seana approached me and asked me if I would write a blog about my summer plans in regards to technology, and since you are reading this, I obviously said yes. I have always been an advocate of technology in the classroom, especially when it is used to enhance or supplement a lesson. Anything to make my life easier and get the students more involved. The problems I have run into throughout the years are good problems to have, but problems nonetheless. Technology is always changing, and it can be difficult to keep up with what’s new and fresh. There is also SOOOOO much stuff out there that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Seana did a really good job this year of helping out with those issues.
Trying to keep up with the Joneses with technology is kind of like trying to win the lottery. You can’t win if you don’t play, but it can get costly and not everyone sells tickets. Using technology to enhance your lessons has definite and obvious benefits, but hardware and software can get expensive and FAST. That’s why I like to research different apps that are free or cheap since they usually update on their own to be compatible with different devices or to fix any bugs. Google is really good about taking your feedback and making changes to make the program more user friendly and effective. A lot of programs offer free versions that are just as good as the paid, and some also offer trial versions so you can see if you even like it. You won’t know unless you try. Believe it or not, there is a lot you can do with a single computer and a classroom full of kids.
Just thinking to yourself, “Hey, I want to use more tech next year.” without any direction could lead you down the rabbit hole where 6 hours later you are no longer looking up new tech for your classes, but rather you are looking up new names for animals (raccoon=trash panda). I may or may not be speaking from personal experience. The Tech Spotlights Seana offered throughout the year give a really great framework of where you could begin. You can access the list here. I find talking to other teachers about what they are doing in their classes also helps give me some ideas of where to start. Reflecting on what problems I had throughout the year and what could have been done better helps me focus on finding a solution to that specific issue. For example, I wanted students to do a group frame story where each contributed a portion. I didn’t want them to submit individual portions, but instead, one cohesive document. I also didn’t want it handwritten. This led to them learning how to create a Google Doc to share and work on within their group.
As with anything, the devil is in the details. Yes, deciding to use tech in your class takes planning, and usually a lot of it. You have to account for so many variables, but putting in the effort in the beginning will help you avoid a lot of them. This past year, I implemented using Google Classroom more than I ever have. While I am not quite ready to switch to a completely paperless classroom, not having to keep up with a million trees made my life exponentially easier. I also didn’t have to deal with students telling me they didn’t have a printer or couldn’t turn stuff in because they were absent. Even McDonald’s has free wi-fi, so it really did cut down on the excuses. I sat back and reflected how I could use it to its full potential next year and have already begun planning and organizing.
I found that I struggled a lot with student absenteeism. While it was good that I could assign work and give instructions through Classroom, and the kids could submit their work through it, they still missed out on class discussion. They still needed that face-to-face interaction to show them how I wanted something done. When I went to the Spotlight PD on screencasting, a light bulb went off over my head. While I had been familiar with the platform and its uses, I just hadn’t thought to use it in my classroom yet. However, BOOM, here is was. I decided that I was going to make a series of videos demonstrating all that is their research paper. From the works cited page to the title page, there will be a video explaining in detail what they need to do. Since I will have everyone use Google for their submissions, showing them on Google Docs will be a breeze. They will be able to play the videos back at their leisure instead of sending me a Remind text at 11:15 at night asking me how to change the header page number even though I had just gone over it in class that day. They are like little astronauts in orbit around me where they only hear what I am saying when they briefly pass by.
I am keeping it simple. It is when I try to take on too much that the idea of using technology to make my life easier get defeated. So, whatever your plans are for the summer, take some time to reflect on what did or did not go well this past year. Pick two or three things that you think would benefit from incorporating technology and set out to finding ways to make that happen. There is nothing wrong with using premade Powerpoints or asking someone to borrow their idea for a project. WE are our greatest resource.
Hope you all have a great summer!!!