Growing up, I often heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”. Teachers, coaches, parents – adults in general – always saying if you keep trying, you will get good at it. As I went through my teenage years, I often got frustrated because no matter how hard I tried or practiced, there were certain things I could never and would never perfect. Before teaching, I wanted to go into computer science. That desire ended in the twelfth grade because I didn’t get it. I practiced and practiced, but I couldn’t wrap my head around certain concepts. It wasn’t until I became a teacher, where I truly realized how influential clichés and sayings could be to a child, and how it could easily affect one’s mindset.
Being a teacher during this amazing time of technology and innovation has made me reflect on my childhood, particularly on why I decided computer science wasn’t the path for me. Was it truly because I didn’t get it nor would I ever get it? Or was it because as much as I practiced, I really didn’t try beyond studying? I continue to think about these questions every day when I am planning a lesson where technology is considered. Through technology in my classroom, I have learned…
1) Do not assume
While students have grown up in the digital age, this does not mean that they have the skills or competencies to complete tasks using technology right away. Our students are proficient in different apps or games, but not necessarily the programs you may need them to use.
2) Teachers do not need to be experts, but they need to know something
Connecting to my first point, you can’t just give a student an iPad or Chromebook and expect them to know what to do. Just like every other subject we teach, students need explicit instructions on how to log in, how to get to the Internet, how to access Google Drive, etc. Teachers do not need to know every single intricate detail about technology, but we need to be invested in learning technology if we want our students to be invested and proficient, as well.
3) Quality vs. Quantity
When you start your technology journey in the classroom, you become excited. You learn about all these cool apps, programs, and add-ons and you just want to try them all. And then, you start all of them. It becomes overwhelming and within a couple of weeks, you become frustrated, can’t find time to properly learn about each app and then give up. Choose one thing you want to implement in your classroom and learn all you can about that one thing. Then, try something else. Two years ago, I learned about Google Classroom. Last year, I invested my time into Google Drive and Google Apps. This year, I am focusing on Osmo and Flipgrid.
4) Get yourself out of your comfort zone
Don’t let your lack of knowledge or experience stop you from trying. Don’t let your fears deny your students opportunities. Even when you learn and succeed, don’t get too comfortable. Try to branch out even further. For me, public speaking has always been something I feared and was fascinated with, all at the same time. Instead of allowing my fear to get the best of me, I decided to take opportunities to speak in front of colleagues and audiences. I began at staff meetings, which led to me presenting at a school board conference, and then, at the EdTechTeam Peel Summit this past September. I learned that I enjoyed sharing my knowledge to help other teachers be better. I learned that through my exposure at these conferences, I was able to connect with brilliant minds and continue my learning journey.
5) Practice makes better
While I have some experience in computer science and technology, learning about different apps and programs took time. I spent one year frustrated with all the apps and programs I heard about and gave up. Then, I spent the next school year trying out my one thing, Google Classroom. Together with my grade four classes, we learned how Google Classroom worked, what we could do with it, what we couldn’t do with it, and how we could implement it to work in our classroom. There were some lessons where we were all confused. There were some lessons with some small victories. But, we kept trying. And no, we did not become perfect in Google Classroom. However, we did become better.
For myself, incorporating technology into my classroom was an easy decision. As much as I wasn’t successful in pursuing a career in computer science, I understand and recognize the prevalence and the influence that technology has on my students, and will probably have for their futures. While I am proud of my accomplishments with integrating technology into my classroom and becoming a teacher at my school that colleagues feel comfortable to ask questions to, I sometimes hear “Well, you understand tech because you’re young.” Yes, I am young, but no, I understand it because I chose to learn about it. Just like many teachers I know, I decided to invest my time because I knew it could be beneficial for my students.
Don’t let the negative clichés of the world make you feel like you can’t. You can, and you will. Practice will make you better.
Grade 3 French Immersion
Burnhamthorpe PS (PDSB)