A lot has changed in technology since the days that I was a classroom teacher over a decade ago. That is putting it mildly. My students had access to three computers in the back of the room that took about half a class period to power up and had internet connections as speedy as rush hour traffic in midtown Manhattan. Though I always received high marks in technology integration in my evaluations, I was still grappling with the actual technology. That year I may have, in fact, actually spent an entire eight hour professional development day laboring over a single Power Point deck for a lesson on el Día de Los Muertos. While some of my colleagues were light years ahead of me with technology, I was somewhere in the middle of the bell curve.
Today, the classroom is a different place and teachers are being held to new standards of technology integration. According to the National Center on Education Statistics, the vast majority of teachers have access to technology tools, including computers, internet access, and projectors. K-12 education has experienced an absolute deluge of online content, assessment tools, real-time reporting, and buckets upon buckets of student data. Isn’t that great? Well…um…maybe.
But only if we can use the tools and the data to better the student learning experience and enrich our own professional skill set.
These days I work with folks here at eScholar who are real experts in data and technology. Through their very patient and careful explanations I have picked up a few things that would have been great to know when I was still Señorita McNicholas of Holdrum Middle School. (Yes, Señorita. I taught Spanish as well as ELA.) I actually wish some of my current colleagues had taught a class or two in my teacher prep courses.
Taking that a step further, if I was going to complete my teaching courses again, I would want to focus on a different kind of skill set- something beyond pedagogy, learning styles and principals of classroom management. Not that these aren’t essential skills for a teacher, but I would also want to learn how to make data and technology work for me in the classroom.
I would want experiences that would help me, as a teacher, do the following:
1) Adapt. Be able to keep pace with and master constantly evolving technologies and integrate new skills into everyday practice.
2) Communicate. Be able to send a clear message regardless of delivery mode: online content, streaming videos, email, picture narratives, tweets, posts, etc.
3) Filter. Be able to parse through the white noise and find critical resources and information.
4) Analyze. Be able to understand the terms and concepts used in analytics and basic statistics. Be able to critically review graphs and data sets and understand what the numbers really mean.
5) Connect. Be able to make data relevant to real students and real practice. Bridge the tools to real life.
I know, I know. Easier said than done. But if I had a chance for a do-over, this is where I would want to start.