Has Your School Reached an Edtech Plateau? Here’s the Key to Moving the...

column | Technology Tips

Has Your School Reached an Edtech Plateau? Here’s the Key to Moving the Needle

By Kerry Gallagher (Columnist)     Dec 11, 2016

Has Your School Reached an Edtech Plateau? Here’s the Key to Moving the Needle

Whether your role is as an administrator, teacher, parent, or student leader, if you’re reading this, you are probably interested in helping other school community stakeholders understand the power of technology in a teaching and learning environment. A common mantra I’m hearing from digital learning coaches and innovative administrators is that they feel the progress toward using technology tools in their schools has plateaued. Many teachers have made great strides, but many more are still tentative with technology.

Just as it is a best practice for educators to model with math and reading and writing for students, it is also a best practice for all tech-savvy stakeholders to model for the tech-tentative.

Administrators: Model risk-taking with edtech for faculty

District and school administrators can start small to demonstrate the willingness to try new tactics and harness the power of technology. Start simple by sending out surveys with Google Forms or Survey Monkey, or interactive video lessons with PlayPosit or EdPuzzle, before meetings and professional learning opportunities. Then, share the resulting data and respond to the concerns of participants so that the meeting can continue positively and productively.

Or, go farther by using technology tools live during these professional learning times. For example, create a live word cloud with AnswerGarden or Poll Everywhere in response to a school-wide question to help focus the discussion. Ask faculty to share links and descriptions from their favorite resources with Padlet.

As teachers see how these tools helped facilitate their own professional experiences, they will see how they could be used with their own students.

Teachers: Model appropriate etiquette with edtech for students

When I work with teachers, one obstacle they say is in the way of them letting students use mobile devices every day in their classrooms is the distraction factor. With a classroom full of students who each have their own screen, how can even the most skilled experienced educator manage to teach content and responsible behavior simultaneously?

Well, not surprisingly, it starts with modeling—and some adults aren’t exactly setting the right kind of example. Research has shown that some children feel as though they are competing with devices for adults’ attention and that caregivers respond harshly to children who try to interrupt their attention to their devices. Teachers can help by talking with students about how they behave when using technology in class—they will turn off all notifications, will only use devices to help demonstrate and teach the students in the room, will not respond to emails during class—and ask students how they intend to behave when using their devices. Classroom contracts aren’t a new concept, and when used well can help everyone hold one another accountable as a community. In a classroom community where each member is responsible, the teacher alone does not bear the burden of being the only manager.

Parents and educators: Model positive social media usage for children

Given the way social media was used by adults to converse and debate during the recent election, it can be challenging to tell our middle and high schoolers that they should follow the examples set by those adults. Instead of ignoring the problem or trying to convince kids to stay off social media, educators can shape the conversation this way:

  1. Acknowledge that some adults use social media poorly and ask your students/children if they’ve seen examples and talk about those examples.
  2. Empower your students/children. They can help make the internet a better place by making accurate and positive posts and by reminding other users to do the same. (I sometimes drop a link to a relevant Snopes page if someone I know posts inaccurate information and politely let them know they might want to check it out.)
  3. Remind your students/children that are the policymakers, educators, business people, and parents of the future. They can start creating the future they want to exist right now. Show examples of other teen users who are already taking positive action so they know it is possible and are inspired to do something themselves.

And here’s a useful note: Always follow the district social media policies, but consider starting a department or team Instagram account and use this as an opportunity to model for students. St. Bernard School in Connecticut goes even further and lets a new student take over the Instagram account each week. Give the students a chance to do some positive modeling, too!

Students: Model how to use technologies in new and creative ways

When designing lessons and projects, teachers can give every student a chance to model by incorporating student choice. Are they analyzing data or using math to solve real world problems? Invite them to choose either an infographic (with infogr.am or Piktochart or Canva) or to create an explainer video (with Explain Everything or Educreations) to show their conclusions based on their work. Are they connecting literature or history to the present day? Provide students with choices like storyboarding, acting in, and then creating a movie (with iMovie or WeVideo) or authoring their own book (with Book Creator or Papyrus) so they have original products to share.

Take it one step further and invite students to come up with their own ways to share their learning. Does a student want to use musical.ly to perform a current song from the perspective of a book character? What about creating a mock Snapchat story to show a day in the life of a scientist? When your students come up with these ideas, let them model creative uses of edtech and then share them with their peers and teachers.

A school community can push past that plateau and continue to make progress when all stakeholders are able to model for and teach one another.

Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) is a Digital Learning Specialist at a 1:1 iPad school serving 1500 students grades 6-12. She is also the Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely.org, and an EdSurge columnist.

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