1 Thing Teachers Should Know about Teaching with Technology

Scott Rodgers

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

When teachers start teaching with technology (and I do mean really teaching with technology), the first thing they better do is to “strap up their seatbelts and pull it tight”, because they are getting ready to go on the ride of their lives. Teaching with technology is a ride. You will find yourself trudging up the hill at times thinking you will never get to the top, yet at other times you will be flying down the hill wondering when you are ever going to reach the bottom.

buckleupApproximately 14 years ago, I along with several other science and math teachers from area schools took part in a 1 year workshop that met for 4 weeks over 2 summers and then once per month or so during school talking exclusively about technology in the classroom. The workshop entitled “Tech Tools” provided a launching pad for my use of technology in my Physical Science and Physics classroom. It especially introduced me to the use of Vernier technologies in the classroom. Upon completion of the workshop, I returned to school determined to figure out a way to put Vernier probeware to use in my classroom. With the help of the greatest technology director in the world, I received a $100,000 grant to buy probeware, computers, calculators, etc. Our science department went from having nothing to having what I firmly believed the best science lab in the area. I thought I was the technology guru!!! Not hardly. I did become a self-taught expert with Vernier equipment, but that is only where my ride began.

My students were exposed to excellent lab situations. I set up many of my labs as inquiry labs before Inquiry-Based Learning became “the thing.” I thought so anyway. The labs were always set up so as to have a “guide to the right answer.” I have since come to realize that true inquiry will result in a lot of wrong answers and that students learn as much from wrong answers as they do from right answers. With End of Course tests, I always argued that we just do not have time for wrong answers. Although it is a somewhat valid argument, I have done a much better job of letting my students get wrong answers as long as they are learning from them.

For my entire teaching career, if my students weren’t in the middle of a lab, they were in their seats and I was at my overhead projector. I loved lecturing and actually still do. I would walk around the room occasionally, but for the most part I could be found at the front of the room with my students staring at me as we went through a lesson. Last year to aid in classroom management, I along with the other physical science teachers bought a wireless mouse for our laptops, created PowerPoint lessons for every lesson we had and became “walk around the classroom lecturers.” Because our PowerPoints were self-made and pretty funny at times, our students enjoyed them, but still found themselves in their seats in a very static classroom.

Summer 2008 came along and after all those years of thinking I was a technology guru, I was treated to a week of Impact Training (named so because of a large technology grant our school system received). I finally got to tighten my seatbelt as I was about to spend a week with a group of educators who knew more about technology that I could ever imagine. We learned about podcasting. We learned about PowerPoint games (test reviews will never be the same again). We learned about Qwizdom (handheld response systems which can be used in conjunction with PowerPoints or used with their own software). We learned about Webquests (what a remarkable idea, students using the internet for learning while in the classroom). We learned that there was more than one type of multimedia presentation students could use to present research: Glogster, MovieMaker, and Audacity just to name a few. At first glance, it may seem like teaching would be easier when you are not standing up front at all times, but this semester has probably been one of the hardest of my career.

This semester has also been one of the most rewarding. My students are having fun. They enjoy class more than ever. There are still times they find themselves in their seats listening to me talk, but it will never again be a 1 ½ hour lecture. We break up lessons with Qwizdoms. We stop and look at different situations on the Internet. We work on multimedia presentations. We work on Gizmos from Explorelearning.com. As a teacher, you will not find yourself at your desk. You will be all over the place helping students, pointing students in the right direction, getting them back on task, etc. What a pleasure when you see a student finally ”get” a concept on their own and want to share that knowledge with the person sitting next to them.

Probably one of the greatest challenges, but also one of the most gratifying challenges is the ability to collaborate with other disciplines within the school. I spent 3 weeks working with an Advanced Functioning and Modeling math class studying roller coasters. It was an extremely tough 3 weeks, but quite possibly the most worthwhile 3 weeks of my entire teaching career. Our classes learned every possible physics concept as they applied to roller coasters on their own and applied those concepts as they built their own roller coaster with Legos. The students were able to Model data they gathered as a part of the math curriculum. I would never have dreamed this big 6 months ago. Before it was all said and done, our classes had completed a Roller Coaster Webquest designed by the math teacher and myself, they had gathered data using Vernier LabQuests, they modeled the data graphically, they built roller coasters they designed on their own with very little parameters, they created videos of their design/build and posted them to the school website and learned a lot about team work and thinking on their own along the way. What I discovered during this 3 week lesson was that using real technologies in the classroom takes much more work up front. I would hate to guess the number of hours put in prepping this lesson, but as I discovered it was time well spent. The lesson is still on my computer. I am ready to tweak the lesson and use it again next semester.

Teaching with technology is hard. It is hard on the teacher for all the reasons people throw out there for not wanting to do it. It doesn’t always work as planned. There will be times your lesson will not work at all. The Internet will go down at times. The students will try and check their personal email during class time. With only 2 years to go before retirement, why should I learn something brand new? I will tell you why, because our students deserve it!!! 21st Century Skills require the use of technology for a reason. It is not the way of the future; it is the way of the present. Using technology in the correct manner will add to your teaching and will also improve your students learning!!!!

So strap up and get ready for the ride of your teaching career, regardless of how far along you already are on your particular ride.

See Scott’s Biotechnology Webquest

About the Author
Scott Rodgers has been teaching and A. L. Brown High School for 18 years. He is the co-share of the science department and currently teaches physics, physical science and project-based science. Scott is the proud father of 4 children who love teaching him about new technologies.

1 Thing to Consider at the Beginning of the Year

Kristen Logan

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.


Show Notes
View the website for Kristen’s teaching team.

1 Thing Student Teachers Should Know

Jennifer Nelson

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

There are many things all student teachers should know.   Since I work with pre-service teachers every day, I thought I would ask a few of our cooperating teachers and university supervisors to comment.  Please feel free to add your remarks!

1 Thing Student Teachers Needs to Know!

Linda Eller

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

Entering a classroom at second semester can be daunting for everything seems easy. It took work early in the year to make the wheels of an effective classroom run almost on empty. It’s all about preparedness, procedures, and practice. The inhabitants of the classroom know what do to when they enter the door, they know where to put their homework or have emailed to the night before. They know when the computers are open and low noise works. They know what to do during read aloud and what group they work with for math. These procedures for getting through each day are established during the beginning of the school year and are practiced often. Student teachers often do not see how an effective classroom is set up at the beginning of the school year.  With this in mind, it is imperative that student teachers ask questions. Things like – How did you establish your rules? How did students learn signals for your style of teaching?  What do your signals mean? What is the difference between a rule of behavior and a classroom procedure?

I’m reminded of the best book any new teacher should have that helps address some of these questions, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong. There is a new 2009 edition out now.  In reviewing the table of contents of the new edition, he writes about being successful on those first days, positive expectations to hold, classroom management, effective lessons, and assessing students. The book is free and new and easy to read. I think it is a critical resource for all teachers but especially student teachers.

One point in Wong’s book that still lingers with me is the importance of planning and preparation. You cannot over plan. Yes, it is work to plan for everything but when you do so, you’ll have one great day after another.  Be proactive and ready for anything before it happens instead of reactionary.  Those instant reactions set you the teacher up for a student to adult power play. Students don’t give up unless you are ready.

From my time in the classroom and having student teachers I’d also have to say that asking questions of the supervising teacher, sharing your ideas, listening to responses, and talking things out will be invaluable. If one doesn’t see or understand how something works then ask. Be mindful of the skills you bring with you and share those strengths. Keep a log of your experiences. It might be helpful when that first teaching assignment is won. Keep in touch with your supervising teacher especially if a good relationship was developed. I had a student teacher once that ended up being my substitute after she graduated. It was wonderful. She knew the expectations in my classroom and I knew she could handle whatever came along.

A teacher impacts student’s lives. A student teacher will do the same for a time. You leave a lasting impression on them as well as their parents and other teachers in the building. Make it a positive, open-minded but assertive impression. Listen to students but be firm with what you expect from them. They will test you over and over and over. Listen to your supervising teachers for they have experiences you can learn from. Listen to your heart and make sure you love working with children. Your days will be filled with new and different things with no two days the same.  Be kind to the children you work with for some will need all the extra attention. Be flexible but hold to your expectations.

With good procedures in order, students trained, expectations explained and lots of practice, the classroom can run smoothly. When you plan well, stay organized, and maintain a positive outlook even when it becomes stressful, you can bring new challenges and fun ways to learning. You will gain as much as your students do for it will be a rich and rewarding experience.

Now here is a young student teacher’s point of view:

1 Thing Student Teachers Should Know

Anna Clifford

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

“I am on your team.” These are the words I often use, as I counsel with and support preservice teachers throughout the teacher education program. I remind them that they are not alone on the teacher preparation journey, but rather they are a team supported member.

The BMI CrewStudent teacher, your teaching toolbox is packed (there is extra space, of course) and you are ready to move into the student teaching experience. With butterflies in your tummy, you question if you are really ready! Can you fly on your own? Yes, you can! However, the 1 Thing you should know is that your team will support you in flight, too! The journey is not over; it has just begun! Recognize your flight team and add members to your team! These members are present to support, challenge, guide, and encourage you as your journey continues.

Gather your team. Oftentimes, you may reflect and pull from those members who influenced your journey along the way. They are teacher trainers/teacher educators. Connect or reconnect with them. An email may be just the thing! Then, look around and add to your team. Your university supervisor has been assigned to you. He/she brings professional training and insight to your journey. The cooperating teacher is on your team. You will professionally live with him/her during your stay. The cooperating teacher brings first-hand practical experience and know-how. Your cooperating teacher will learn from you, as well. 😉

Take time to wander the halls of your assigned school and be attentive to the school culture. Use your teacher eyes; peek into other classrooms. Find teaching and learning happening the way you want it to happen, then, connect with that classroom teacher. Purposeful conversations (could happen in the teachers lounge) with teachers or other student teachers may enlighten you to rich and successful teaching-learning experiences. Teachers down the hall and on-site collaboration are effective enablers for successful student teaching experiences.

Do not forget the students, both inside and outside of the classroom. Listen and learn from them, with respect. Beware, their “awe” moments may move you to the next step in your journey.

Move outside the classroom. Search the Web for professional teacher blogs and online communities designed to support student teachers. You will be surprised by the reciprocating support you will experience from your e-team members. Be an active participant!

Last, you are a team member. Believe in yourself. You have so much to offer our students and you are well on your way!

Student teacher, intentionally recognize your team, connect with the members, and add new members along the way as you continue to experience the teaching-learning experience. In addition, collaborate often with Your Team, as you become the teacher of your dreams… and fly!

1 Thing Teachers Should Know about Teaching with Technology

Mike Fisher

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

What do you think? Please share your ideas with Mike and the rest of us in the comments.

Mike FisherAbout the Author
Mike Fisher
Nationally Certified Instructional Coach and Consultant in Western New York.
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1 Thing New Teachers Should Know

Kathryn Sharp

Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about those first few years of teaching and the things that really helped me. I really can’t narrow it down to one thing. Please feel free to choose your one thing from this list!

I can say that new programs or curricular packages never helped. There were a few workshops that helped but not as much as watching a great teacher teach. What did help was reflecting on my performance, my choices and my personal biases. When things got tough I had to reconnect with why I chose this profession in the first place. I stopped to remember what it meant to me and why I knew I was in the right place. From there I tried to take stock of where I was and make a plan for improvement. I really did come to understand that “I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather” (Ginnot). This was scary to consider but empowering also. Throughout this process, a few simple things really made all the difference.

Give yourself permission to master one thing before beginning another. It is very difficult to learn to do all the things you need to do to be a great teacher, therefore, prioritize them and actually write this down. Don’t try to be superman or superwoman. Pick the most important thing for you (for me it was having students write in a daily journal) and master that. After you have this one down pat, layer on the next thing, master it and so on. What component of your teaching is really important to you?

Be ready before the students arrive. Days always go better when we can greet our students calmly and confidently rather than being frantic about getting the morning work ready or getting to the copier. Learn that the school hours are the students’ hours, not the teachers’ hours. You should always be there before them and leave after them. Even 30 minutes in the classroom at the end of the day paves the way for a smoother beginning to the next school day. One part of this is to always have your desk or work area organized before you leave. The lesson plans and materials for the next day should be set up before you leave for the day.

Ask yourself why. Why are you doing certain activities? Why are you spending children’s time doing what you are doing? Is it because the district says to? Is it because you don’t know what else to do? Is it because another teacher does it and she seems to know what’s going on? There is a reason but we want to make sure it’s a really good reason. Encourage your students to ask why also. It’s nice to know the answers but even nicer to raise questions. We all need to challenge the way things are and seek new solutions. If we don’t, things might stay the same!

Learn to stop when you need to. When you feel overwhelmed (and you will) simply stop for a couple of minutes and gather your thoughts. It is fine to tell your students this is what you are doing; in fact it is a wonderful strategy to model for children. We want our students to STOP and THINK rather than acting out in anger or not working productively. I used an egg timer for this. I simply stated that I was going to set the timer for 2 minutes and I needed to think. I would not be able to talk with them during that time. They could read, write or draw but could not be on the floor. Usually I said a prayer, collected my thoughts and moved forward. I do know that I was more effective after my “time-out” than I was before it.

Surround yourself with positive people. I don’t mean to just be a “Pollyanna” and pretend to be cheerful all the time, nor do I want to sound as if we don’t need to vent to someone. I am saying that you can find people to talk to who will help you solve problems—find solutions rather than wallow in misery and stagnation. If this means staying out of the teacher’s lounge, so be it. Negativity brings us all down and affects our performance adversely, on the other hand positivity does the opposite. How can you begin to associate with positive people?

If you would like to chat or have questions, please contact me at lsharp@memphis.edu.

Happy Teaching!!
Kathryn Sharp