Guest TechPD Blog~ Digital Technology

By:  Don Balke

Digital Technology and the Internet has been with us teachers for some time.  However, if you’re like me, using technology to do your job has been one thing that we can handle well, but changing your job with technology has been an entirely different matter.  To change how you teach and change how your students will learn is an overwhelming concept for most of us.  We read literature and watch videos from the edtech gurus and are awed and inspired by what they have done with their classrooms.  Inevitably, we try to add components of technological tools, but then realize that truly transforming our instruction still seems to be light years away (referred to as redefinition in the SAMR model.)

It’s summer, and besides catching up and enjoying time off, I always do quite a bit of reflecting on my job.  While being engaged in a summer PD class, I once again was looking forward to improving my instruction through technology, but that same old feeling of somehow not being up to this vast task crept in.  So, I decided to look back at my 21st Century evolution and see what I could draw from that for encouragement and confidence building.  Here’s my story:

About five years ago, a new digital tool was brought to my attention, Google.  Well, I loved using Microsoft office tools, so my initial reaction was, “What a stupid name, Google Shmoogle!” and I avoided it at all costs, thinking it would go away, and I could keep doing what I had been doing with technology.  Oh boy! Talk about sticking your head in the sand! Over the next year the writing appeared on the wall, and I realized that soon Microsoft Office would not be an option for most of my students’ work, so I had to get on board with Google Drive for Educators.

Three years ago I opened my Google Drive, and began creating documents for classroom use.  I successfully learned the basics of Google drive.  

Two years ago, I decided to have my students create their work with Google documents.  What followed was painful.  Although I liked Google docs because I was able to electronically receive and interact with my students’ work, finding and organizing (or should I say curating) their assignments in my Google drive became overwhelming.  The time spent in Google drive was enormous; something had to change.  

One year ago, I decided that I needed to go deeper into developing skills for this Google drive business, and had also been advised to consider using the Google Classroom tool.  Our district provided some terrific tech PD opportunities in June of 2015, and I invested myself in learning how to function well in as many Google functions as possible. I made plans to basically get my feet wet with Google Classroom, perhaps using it in one or two subjects on a limited basis.  At John Kuglin’s educator technology seminar, I also learned about another tool and strategies for managing resources and tools online, called Symbaloo.   I revamped my entire Weebly web page, integrating the webmixes that I was creating using Symbaloo.  The intention was to use my own web site for my students to interact with and be able to launch themselves into the programs and sites that were part of our classroom learning (that was the strategy I learned from Kuglin.)

Over the past school year I ended up expanding the use of Google Classroom into every subject that I taught, with hundreds of assignments given and submitted back to me through this tool, constant feedback provided for my students, and an incredible ease of monitoring and accessing any document at any time.  I even began to dabble in other digital tools, such as Edpuzzle and YouTube, realizing that these worked quite well with Google Classroom management system.  I took my learning from the summer far beyond anything that I had expected to do.

Digital Technology and the Internet has been with us teachers for some time.  However, if you’re like me, using technology to do your job has been one thing that we can handle well, but changing your job with technology has been an entirely different matter.  To change how you teach and change how your students will learn is an overwhelming concept for most of us.  We read literature and watch videos from the edtech gurus and are awed and inspired by what they have done with their classrooms.  Inevitably, we try to add components of technological tools, but then realize that truly transforming our instruction still seems to be light years away (referred to as redefinition in the SAMR model.)

It’s summer, and besides catching up and enjoying time off, I always do quite a bit of reflecting on my job.  While being engaged in a summer PD class, I once again was looking forward to improving my instruction through technology, but that same old feeling of somehow not being up to this vast task crept in.  So, I decided to look back at my 21st Century evolution and see what I could draw from that for encouragement and confidence building.  Here’s my story:

About five years ago, a new digital tool was brought to my attention, Google.  Well, I loved using Microsoft office tools, so my initial reaction was, “What a stupid name, Google Shmoogle!” and I avoided it at all costs, thinking it would go away, and I could keep doing what I had been doing with technology.  Oh boy! Talk about sticking your head in the sand! Over the next year the writing appeared on the wall, and I realized that soon Microsoft Office would not be an option for most of my students’ work, so I had to get on board with Google Drive for Educators.

Three years ago I opened my Google Drive, and began creating documents for classroom use.  I successfully learned the basics of Google drive.  

Two years ago, I decided to have my students create their work with Google documents.  What followed was painful.  Although I liked Google docs because I was able to electronically receive and interact with my students’ work, finding and organizing (or should I say curating) their assignments in my Google drive became overwhelming.  The time spent in Google drive was enormous; something had to change.  

One year ago, I decided that I needed to go deeper into developing skills for this Google drive business, and had also been advised to consider using the Google Classroom tool.  Our district provided some terrific tech PD opportunities in June of 2015, and I invested myself in learning how to function well in as many Google functions as possible. I made plans to basically get my feet wet with Google Classroom, perhaps using it in one or two subjects on a limited basis.  At John Kuglin’s educator technology seminar, I also learned about another tool and strategies for managing resources and tools online, called Symbaloo.   I revamped my entire Weebly web page, integrating the webmixes that I was creating using Symbaloo.  The intention was to use my own web site for my students to interact with and be able to launch themselves into the programs and sites that were part of our classroom learning (that was the strategy I learned from Kuglin.)

Over the past school year I ended up expanding the use of Google Classroom into every subject that I taught, with hundreds of assignments given and submitted back to me through this tool, constant feedback provided for my students, and an incredible ease of monitoring and accessing any document at any time.  I even began to dabble in other digital tools, such as Edpuzzle and YouTube, realizing that these worked quite well with Google Classroom management system.  I took my learning from the summer far beyond anything that I had expected to do.

So here is the takeaway that I want to share with you.  It took me five years to get to this realization: I now know that if I prepare myself to move forward in some aspect of 21st century instruction, I will be successful at it and go further than I can imagine.  The key is to change your mindset.  Matt Miller wrote a book on this topic, “Ditch That Textbook”, in which he outlined a process for change, but he advised not to try to do too much at once, but get started!  As I look back on the last few years, I can see how that is actually working for me.  I am confident that when I decide to add elements such as blogging, Padlet, and Edpuzzle to my instruction this year, their use and impact will exceed what I plan for, and likely lead me into other technological ventures that may also result in changing how I teach and changing how my students learn.


So here is the takeaway that I want to share with you.  It took me five years to get to this realization: I now know that if I prepare myself to move forward in some aspect of 21st century instruction, I will be successful at it and go further than I can imagine.  The key is to change your mindset.  Matt Miller wrote a book on this topic,
“Ditch That Textbook”, in which he outlined a process for change, but he advised not to try to do too much at once, but get started!  As I look back on the last few years, I can see how that is actually working for me.  I am confident that when I decide to add elements such as blogging, Padlet, and Edpuzzle to my instruction this year, their use and impact will exceed what I plan for, and likely lead me into other technological ventures that may also result in changing how I teach and changing how my students learn.

 

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