Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A few ideas to jumpstart integration...

I recently attended TCEA, an educators' technology conference, and saw some pretty neat things happening out there. Teachers are regularly using wikis and blogs, podcasts and vodcasts, videoconferencing and virtual field trips, and other web 2.0 tools in their classrooms in some districts, and I wondered why it's so difficult to inspire such a willingness in my own teachers to try these awesome items. I know that it's important to them to help children to want to learn. They provide lots of fun, creative activities in the classroom, so why isn't technology a large part of that fun? It's not for a lack of peripherals; we have 1 SmartBoard/document camera combo per grade level. We have 2 scanners and a lab pack of 5 digital cameras. It's not for a lack of computers, as we have 3 per classroom and 2 computer labs with 25+ computers in each. One problem that all teachers face is a lack of time; they need time to "play" and get comfortable with all of these tools that we have. They also need to be shown that lessons which use technology help students retain information learned. In my own experience, teachers who observe me doing an integrated lesson with their students remark on how amazing it is that every student is on task and working to the best of their ability to complete projects. They can't wait to show each other what they know how to do, thereby giving them a chance to play "teacher." However, when it comes time for the teachers to create their own lessons which incorporate technology, they don't want to take the leap on their own. When I offer to meet with them to plan a lesson, there never seems to be a free period of time in which to do this, because of their other committments (meeting with their grade level teams to analyze testing data, meeting with parents to discuss progress, meeting with admins to discuss student performance, and doing their own lesson planning which incorporates all of the state standards as well as what will help students "pass the tests"). Add to that their (dare they have any?) committments in their personal lives, and there's just no time left for meeting with me. Perhaps this has become a self-indulgent rant to express my frustration, but I know there are many people out there right where I am. We know how fabulous true, seamless integration can be and it's just beyond our grasp. I remember being in the classroom (only 2 years ago) and sprinkling in a little technology anywhere I could...for the kids, because they loved it, but also for me, because it kept me interested as well! Although not every teacher shares my enthusiasm for incorporating technology into everyday lessons, I know that it is my job to find a way to plant the seed in each one of them. The learners of tomorrow are not the learners of yesterday. If we want our world to be a better place, we must set students up to succeed in the real world. This means speaking to them in their own language, one that includes a great deal of technology. The only way to get our students to be where they need to be is to teach them how they learn, and that is not necessarily in the way that is most comfortable to us. For now, I'll lead by example, and hope that some of those seeds that I plant grow, and even blossom. As my grandma always said, "Bloom where you are planted."

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