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Friday, January 15, 2016

You Can't Do It All

It was August 5, 2015, the first day of the new school year and I was pumped and ready to get going. For the first time at my school district, all students grades 3-12 will be walking through the doors with a Chromebook. 
1st day of school & students 1st
attempt to login to new Chromebooks.

Before I always enjoyed and tried to use as much tech in my teaching that was available, but now every student will have access to a device for them to use every day at home and at school. 

Prior to this first day of school, I made sure I had prepared myself on how to effectively use the technology to get the most out of my lessons and student learning. Some of the things I did was: 

  • Learned about SMAR (Here is a neat analogy comparing it to Starbucks coffee.)
  • Attended corporation sponsored summer tech "play dates" with our E-Coaches
  • Watched webinars and got to know the ins and outs Google Apps for Education
  • Attended two area eLearning conferences. (Which were awesome because I got to hear keynotes by George Couros, Kyle Pace, and Dean Shareski. Also, participated in breakout sessions lead by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler)
  • Purchased and read Matt Miller's book, Ditch That Textbook
  • Purchased and read Alice Keeler's book, 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom
  • Began using Twitter more as a way to connect with other educators & build a PLN.

Phew! That was a lot and I'm now tired just thinking about it. But the reason I bring this up was because through my preparation the list of ideas and ways I was going to infuse my lessons, classroom, and transform student learning with technology was and still is ridiculously long. I'll spare you the details of that list, but believe me, it was LONG and according to my plans and goals for this year I was going to do it all!

I'll admit it, I was somewhat frustrated when school dismissed for Christmas Break, the way I envision what my classroom was going to be like and how my students were going to interact and use technology was nonexistent.

Then one evening I was skimming through different sections of Matt Miller's book and there on page 169, staring at me was the chapter heading, "DON'T USE IT ALL." That was my "have a V-8" moment. (No, I didn't really smack my forehead with my palm.) After reading through the chapter, it ends with this kind piece of advice:

Now coming back to school after our break, I realized that I am not going to meet my goals for tech integration in my classroom this year. But you know what, that is okay, my students and I have made great strides since the beginning of the year and I'm looking forward to what else we will be able to accomplish as we finish this year together.

So to close I will leave you with a few little tidbits about what I learned:

  1. Be careful not to use technology just for the sake of using technology. I was warned of this numerous time by numerous source, but I let my excitement blur my focus. My students were not accustomed to this way of learning and so I had to take my foot off the gas pedal. 
  2. Be ambitious with your goals and the tech that you want to use. However, it's okay if you don't achieve them all. Take steps baby steps & build upon your experience next year. 
  3. It is okay if you and your students fail. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning! I was prepared for this one and made it my class motto this year. See the bulletin board I put outside of my classroom door.
  4. Be patient with yourself and with your students. Although they might be "digital natives" students still need time to adjust and learn how the technology works.
  5. Ask students what they liked and didn't like. You might have what you think is a great lesson with an awesome new tech tool, but sometimes students don't agree.
  6. Don't abuse it. This is opposite of #5. If something goes over really well and students love the lesson and technology used, don't incorporate it into every lesson. It will become old and unattractive to your students real quick.
What are or were some of your goals for integrating tech into your lessons? Is there something that you tried and flopped, or was it a success? Let me know by commenting below or connect with me on Twitter @SEANJFAHEY.