Okay! So, it is officially summer vacation and I am off from teaching for two months. As I sit at home reflecting on one year of teaching, 13 years as a technology facilitator and nine years as a parent—I can’t help but think, Oh, how much has changed! A decade ago, teaching was easy. No state tests, no underperforming schools, no children at home to entertain/feed/take care of, and the economy was so much better. These days, summer in consumed with a second job, entertaining the children, worrying about a possible state takeover of our school and system—not to mention lots of planning.
Teachers spend summer on recertification courses to ensure a pay increase and to take in some professional development. They work that second or third job to make ends meet, take care of the kids who are home for the summer (kids who aren’t at camp due to costs or personal obligations). They grow anxious over increasing student test scores for the coming year, or simply decompress from a just-passed whirlwind year of grading and of handling tough and energetic students who want so much more from education than they currently get.
Today, students spend 180-plus days in school where they use less technology in a month than they do in a single summer day. I can’t tell you how many houses I pass with empty lawns, no kids playing outside. It’s a different world these days. When I was a kid, we were always outdoors. There were no video games to play, no 400 channels to watch. The environment was safer outside. Not that I’m advocating for discontinuing technology use or increasing exercise by getting out—just stating a fact.
Students today use way more technology than we ever did. When summer’s up, they return to a classroom run by the very same people who don’t use nearly as much technology as they do. And they expect us to run our daily lessons the way they spent all day every day over their tech-immersed summer. They expect we’ll make learning fun and exciting. So many of us let them down, but not for want, rather simply because we can’t. We may feel as comfortable with the technology as they do, but don’t have the luxury of time to play and intimately familiarize ourselves with the technology. Often our training and professional improvement time is spent elsewhere—grocery shopping, for example. Our second or third jobs are often void of technology use. We’re reading extensive texts for class. I could go on. You know what I’m talking about; life gets crazy.
So, amid my hectic life, I find myself drifting into thoughts (when I find the time) where I am trying to think like a student. How do I want my learning to go? What would my next school year look like if I could truly decide for myself? But I keep running into the same problem summed up in the phrase ‘classroom constraints’ — fair and equitable technology access; a piece of technology in every student’s hands and so on. Yet most of my students have some form of technology in their hands at any given moment when they are home.
Sorry—just a sec—I’ve gotta go. I have an interview for a new position and summer is the only time they’ll do it. When I get back, I have to watch the kids, so I’ll meet you back here tonight…
…Okay, back to my thinking, planning and re-energizing: now, where was I? Oh, yes: I need more technology in the hands of my students than they had last school year. The three computers per class with an interactive whiteboard and TV are just not going to cut it—or can it? How can I milk them for all they are worth? I can create a tight schedule to get every student on each machine. How can I integrate this technology to mirror what they’re used to? I have no budget. No word yet of any additional technology coming soon. I did receive the IWB but I’m not sure I could do more with that. Let me visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there are some lessons I can use.
Ah, I do remember coming across the website http://smarttech.com/edredirect in the professional learning network I belong to. But wait, I have a Minio, and someone in a webinar I was in the other day mentioned the site http://www.mimioconnect.com/ that I should check out. I bet all manufacturers have a site like this. Probably takes just a little search to find them. Well, I need to seek help if I want more technology in my class, how about donations? I think I remember seeing an email go out to all staff last year about Donors Choose, what was the link again? Yeah, here it is: http://www.donorschoose.org/ thankfully I kept that email. Okay, so now I need to request material, software, equipment and more for the upcoming school year—just another thing on the to-do list. Don’t forget shopping for things I just will not get supplied for by my school such as new headphones, microphones and such. Looks like I need to work a bit more this summer.
Maybe I can get some ideas for lessons and ideas that work to share on my Personal Learning Network (PLN) by joining some other PLNs. Let’s see, I belong to Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com) Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) and I’m now a member of Google+ (https://plus.google.com/). I can join Adobe Education Exchange (http://edexchange.adobe.com/pages/home) Discovery Education’s DEN (http://community.discoveryeducation.com/) or the countless other personal PLN’s started by my friends. Can’t there just be one place where everyone can go to find everything related to Technology Integration in Education? Maybe I should start my own site that does this and call it Technology Integration in Education (http://www.technologyintegrationineducation.com). Wait, do I have any idea just how much time it will take to maintain a site, not to mention one of this scale?
I need to organize my time better. This is my vacation, after all. Let me get back to that thought. I have to go blog for my friend Victor Rivero on his site EdTech Digest (https://edtechdigest.wordpress.com/). Be back later…
…Alright, I’m back again. I’ve gotten a new android to help me stay organized and to be a better teacher. Maybe I could use this in my classroom for teaching. At least I could add apps for all of my professional networks. I did use Edmodo (http://www.edmodo.com) in my classes last year and the students loved it. I will have to add their app. I’m going to need a data plan for this phone. I think I’ll stick with Sprint (http://www.sprint.com) because they have unlimited data. With unlimited data, I can walk around my classroom and have that wireless tablet I’ve wanted to help me teach. It’s not as nice or easy to use as one of those Apple iPads I’ve been eyeing, but it’ll do. I’ll add the Google Music app so I can play audio and podcasts for my students, and I’ll have to hook it up to speakers. but I’m sure I can get it to work. I have bought the HTC EVO (http://www.htc.com/us/products/evo-sprint). They even have a 3-D version now, but I’m not sold on 3-D use in education. I’ll have to do some research on that. Maybe this article from eSchool News about 3-D content in education will help (http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/07/13/3d-content-for-education-on-the-rise/). While I’m at it, I will have to download some good reading to my Kindle. Maybe I can use one of these so I have so reading to do when I get a free moment. I am on vacation after all.
Okay, so I’ve used Glogster (http://www.glogster.com) in my classroom already. I’ve used Prezi (http://edu.prezi.com/), Storybird (http://storybird.com/teachers/), GoAnimate (http://goanimate4schools.com/public_index) and even Pixton (http://www.pixton.com/schools/overview) but I have to stay constant and fresh. My students want me to stay up on the latest tech. Maybe I can use Zimmer Twins (http://www.zimmertwins.com/). I came across that in a podcast I was listening to the other day from iTunes U (http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/). I have to remember to put that in my Diigo bookmarking group (http://groups.diigo.com/group/technology-integration-in-education) so I can find it again later and I can share it with my class (http://www.diigo.com/education). I can always save the podcast in my Dropbox and access it through the Dropbox app I have added to my phone. I have to read the article I came across again on how I can use this product more in my class (http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/86024.aspx).
Wait a minute. I have to raise test scores. I need to validate everything I am doing. I need to track data on my students. I need to access that data at any given time and make sure I am focusing my teaching on their each individual needs. Maybe the videos from Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/) can help. I think I saw an app for that in the Android marketplace. Wouldn’t that be great if I could convince my district to embrace the use of cell phones? I have to generate a report and share some documents that help support my case—I’m sure I can find something out there.
Good thing I have the summer off! I don’t blame people who say teachers are paid too much because they only work 10 months of the year. Imagine what I would do if I had even more time off. Well, back to my vacation.
Greg Limperis is a Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., who founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.