Telling – Why not?
Smoking – We all know it’s bad for your health, is linked to cancer and is the root cause of many other physical problems. Yet people continue to smoke, we continue to sell tobacco products and our youth continue to be swayed to using them. Why? In the 21st century with so much advancement, why does this continue? Why can’t everyone just quit?
As someone who smoked for years, quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn’t do it on the first try, in fact it took many years to go from wanting to doing and finally being able to state that I had quit. I still get cravings and I’ve needed to change my lifestyle so as to avoid being in certain situations where I willpower just won’t work. It was a very HUGE difference between saying “I’m quitting” and actually doing it. People who have never smoked don’t understand. Bill Engvel, an American comedian, talks about quitting smoking and how hard it is. Getting advice from non-smokers who’d tell him to “just quit! Why can’t you just quit?” And it’s true, people who have never smoked will give all kinds of advice on how to quit, bombard you with all sorts of health information, which makes you feel even worse – sometimes like a complete failure. Someone who has smoked isn’t as quick to offer advice and will be more willing to offer support if asked but they aren’t as full of the “I know how” advice or the “you’re an educated adult, what’s wrong with you?” tone.
What does smoking have to do with technology integration?. For one, it’s kind of hard to sneak around the corner to “integrate”! How they are the same is that many people will tell you that’s it’s easy or that you should be doing it or how you should do it or why you should do it and provide you with all sorts of data – making you feel like that failure as their finger-wagging tone continues the “What’s wrong with you?’” But, they’ve never really done it. They’ve never looked at year/lesson plans and tried to imagine how they might integrate technology. They’ve not had to assess or evaluate students in order to provide a “mark”. They’ve not had to look at the long term of how does this fit into where I am now and what I do everyday. They might have classroom experience or put together a lesson or two but not the day-in day-out year-long experience.
They can tell you you should do it, that it can’t be that hard and will provide you all kinds of stats/articles/data about why, as a teacher, you should be doing it. They’ll throw out phrases that will include “21st Century Skills, digital citizenship, digital natives” and others. Some will be able to point you to teachers who “didn’t know a thing about technology but are doing it” just like there are some smokers who quit, first time, no problems. Well, for the rest, it wasn’t so easy.
As you move to integrate technology, you might want to think of these things along the way – they’re things I’ve learned from experience in my classroom:
1. Decide why you are doing this and make a plan. Base your decision on learning not because you think you should or someone says you should. Cool might look “fun” but focus on the learning that will be taking place and how it will become part of the strategies you use in class and how might you assess the learning. I use tools like MindMeister and Gliffy to do brainstorming – sometimes. For some of the work, they are the best option for getting students involved and helping them to make connections between parts. They’re relatively easy to use. Now, there are other options like Popplet, text2mind and Mind42. This year I’ll also be looking at aMap and wikimindmap in some of my classes and I might even give Pinterest a go. Now, I’ll look at them but I won’t force them to fit and if I can’t use them, that’s okay. We’re way past the “wow” factor – our time is too precious.
2. Find your support people are and USE THEM. Teaching is not a solitary endeavour. Although there are a great number of resources that show you how, having someone to go to for support is essential for success. Whether it’s IT support or planning support or assessment support or delivery support, you need to have someone who can give you a hand. In the division where I teach, we have different people who support me in each of the above areas but because they are a distance away, it is important to find someone within the building or within you PLN that you can look to for assistance and help. This is where those connections via twitter or Classroom2.0 or Ed Administrators2.0 help.
3. Be prepared for setbacks. It will happen and there will be times when things don’t work out. Instead of tossing in the towel, getting down on yourself and forgetting it – reflect on what happened. That is why it’s important to plan – so you can assess for yourself and then make adjustments. Make notes of what went well and what you need to do to be successful.
4. Allow the students to guide some of what happens. You don’t have to control the whole process. In fact, it’s better if you build in various opportunities for their own exploration and sharing. Build the capacity of the room – make learning, not control, the focus of what is going on.
5. Have a backup option. I’ve been using technology in my classes since the mid 90′s – wikis and the LMS HotChalk since 2006 or so and have found out through experience that I always need to have an option that will allow us to continue to learn even if the internet is down or the system is buggy or ….. I’ve amassed a pretty good collection of items, articles, pictures that provide alternatives if things are working. Now, having more students BTOT, I rely on them to provide a buffer if our school system isn’t working. Heck, I’ve created my own hotspot to allow students to work. But you need to think about these types of things and have alternatives. Having 26 grade 1′s all being frustrated because “It won’t work” can lead to great issues.
6. You need to lead with your strengths. I’m really good at the big picture – putting things out there so students/staff can see the parts fitting together. I’m not as good going from parts to whole – so I use my strengths and look for someone who can support me in areas where I’m not as strong. As an administrator, I have staff who have strengths which I encourage them to use and develop. When I first began teaching, I wasn’t very good but I was surrounded by a whole team of great teachers, each with their strengths. I visited them, watched them, had them help me, give me ideas and suggestions. I focused on making improvements while still using my strengths.
Telling and Doing are not the same
I’ve noticed that people who have quit smoking aren’t the first to offer you advice. In fact, they usually only offer suggestions or ideas because they know that whatever you do, it won’t be easy. They listen to what you have to say – will tell you a story or two of their failures before they were successful. I know very few people, actually only 2, who were successful the first time and did it with no plan. It’s kind of like that with technology integration – people who are successful usually have many setbacks, have learned from their mistakes and will share but will do so through stories which will usually include a failure or two.
Then there are the “Tellers” – they’re experience is vicarious – they’ve talked to all sorts of people who have done it but they really haven’t had the experience themselves – they don’t know what it’s actually like to have those successes – they just tell you that they will come. They’ve never been in a room with 29 grade 7′s when the computers aren’t working and things are going south fast – the panic as you realize your plan isn’t working, the sinking sense of failure, the “what do I do now panic” that sets in. They’ve heard about it, maybe even seen it but working through it and learning from it and watching or hearing about it are two different things.
So, as you begin to make plans, looking for tools to use – I like the site http://www.go2web20.net which has all sorts of sites that give you many different options that are searchable by tags – remember that you aren’t alone – you have supports around you and you need to use them. There will be setbacks but it’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it and move forward. You don’t have to control everything – it’s about learning and not control. Use your strengths – we all have them. Give yourself time – you are making changes in “teachingstyle” much as I did with having to make adjustments in lifestyle. One of them was exercising – I still remember my first “run” walking to the end of the block and back. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing.