Teaching Teachers

Recently, I transitioned from being an elementary school teacher into a Primary Technology Integration Specialist. Since I was a classroom teacher for ten years, I tend to think about technology with a teacher’s perspective. As a result, I have come up with three simple steps to help me in working with teachers and creating professional development:

  • Respect the Teacher’s Time/Respect the Schedule
  • Be Timely with Help/Support
  • Be Brief and Relevant

If a person has never been a classroom teacher, it is impossible to describe what busy means. Having worked at other jobs in other industries, I very much understand a hard day’s work. However, teaching is a different kind of intensity. Teaching is rewarding but it is also very difficult. Most notably, your time is not your own. When I get up to get a coffee or just use the restroom when I want to and not after a bell rings, I need to remember this in my new role.

Recently, I gave a presentation to help teachers build their new class sites. This was not an easy task for many who see the sites as a ‘have-to’ with many other pressing issues at the beginning of the year. Did I mention that I had to give my presentation after the first day of school? Yes, this was not an optimal time.

As a result, I simply looked at what needed to be completed on their sites for Back to School Night… that was it. There are so many other neat and helpful things I could have shown them, but I had to think about what teachers needed right then. I laid out my presentation, created videos and other resources that teachers could refer back to, and kept everyone on-task. As a result, the teachers’ sites were built within that presentation time frame. Interestingly, several teachers have approached me since the professional development to ask about the neat and helpful things, such as embedding a calendar or adding a subscription widget. Believe me, I got back to them right away. I want to keep the momentum going.

Teachers are a tough audience with most teachers admitting they are not good students. However, as with any student that is difficult to reach, it’s all in the approach. Make the learning relevant and timely, respect their busy schedules, get back to them right away, and you might just find that they seek you out for more learning.

I understand that I have so much to learn and not all of the feedback will always be so positive, but for right now, it feels good.  It also serves as a reminder that my job is not about implementing the newest technology tools. Rather, a big part of my job is to look at these tools and see if they will help teachers to do their job more efficiently and effectively; to free up some of their valuable time so they can teach.

Here is an example of one of the resource videos I created for teachers:

Below are screenshots of some emails I received after the class site professional development:

Timely Feedback

As much as I would like to meet with students independently to give feedback, it is sometimes difficult to find the time on a daily basis. Commenting with Google Docs came to mind when I was giving feedback on a grade level document. I realized this tool enables me to interact with each student in a timely manner. My students are comfortable with Google Docs and find it is easy to use. With this particular assignment, a theme paragraph, I was a bit anxious because the students were finishing up their rough drafts, and  I wanted to wrap everything up before we began our next class novel. Once I finished commenting on all of the papers, the homework assignment was for students to reply to the comments and then make the revisions or edits. By replying, it enabled students to reflect upon their own writing and thinking. Although nothing tops meeting with face-to-face, the commenting feature allows me to contact each student in a timely manner.

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For me, students learning to work together is a great opportunity for them to share ideas and knowledge in a safe environment; they can learn from one another. By effectively collaborating, students become active participants in their own learning.  Instead of just absorbing information, they become problem solvers.

Last week I introduced my students to Google Docs as a collaborative tool. We have been using Google Apps since the beginning of the year, but we haven’t used Docs to collaborate in small groups. Because they were familiar with the format, students were quick to jump in and to find features such as ‘chat’ and ‘comments’ and taught these to each other.

Within the lesson, students were actively engaged and completed the task.  I still found that some students wanted to control the process, while a few focused a bit too much on the features. However, I find this true with other formats and will consider that a classroom management issue.

To my great surprise, a small group of students chose Google Docs later in the day to record their notes for a completely different task. I have to say, that felt pretty nice.

Becoming Search Masters

Becoming Search Masters

As a classroom teacher, I have seen first hand how students struggle to find relevant information while searching the internet. I have watched them drop in a few words and hope for the best, only use the first two or three results that pop up.  It wasn’t until I learned how to search more effectively that I realized that my students needed to know these tips and tricks as well.

Within the past year, I have taken two workshops regarding Google Apps because I work at a Google school, and also because I believe it is a educational friendly tool.  From these workshops, I learned that Google has ‘operators’ or filters that help people refine their searches and some helpful tricks like using the URL box as calculator or dictionary. And those are just the very top of a very large iceberg. For my grade 5 students, it is my job to decipher which tips and tricks will be the most useful for them.

As a result I created a Google presentation to introduce grade 5 students to a few of the operators and some of the tools that Google has to help make searches more specific and relevant. This information is something which I will continue to model and review with students.

become a search master 

To see some photos of the student in action, please check out my class website: