Your classroom has iPads, SMARTboards, and all the gadgets that administration says you should be using. Now what do you do with them? Teachers take on these EdTech tools with a responsibility to utilize them to best meet the students’ needs and enhance their learning. With technology, educators need to continuously stay informed on educational tech trends and changes so their 21st century learners can stay on par with their peers. Additionally, teachers need to embrace student perspectives and differences, as students are exposed to a variety of cultures, ideas, and values every time they pick up a device. The following are ideas on how to be a more effective teacher in the digital age.
Know When to Utilize Technology
To be a more effective teacher in the digital age, educators need to know when to utilize technology and when it is okay to use traditional methods of teaching. For starters, teachers can ask themselves:
- Will using technology in this activity better engage students?
- Will using technology augment, modify, or redefine the activity?
- Will using technology help to familiarize students with a new device?
- Will using technology provide more students with a voice?
If the answer is ‘no’, educators should stick to the textbooks, manipulatives, or activities that have worked in the past. If a particular activity has shown to be really engaging for students or using manipulatives like geoblocks or counters keeps students focused on the target goal, then keep using those tools. While technology has the capability of enhancing and redefining learning, it is not always the answer. Using self-reflection after lessons is another good way to help determine if the objectives were successfully met using the chosen resources. If yes, great. If not, see if there are better ways out there to meet the end goal. More times than not, there will be something digital that can help support learning.
Stay Informed of EdTech Trends and Changes
Being a more effective teacher in the digital age means staying informed on EdTech trends and changes. This requires teachers to put themselves out there, asking colleagues what tools they are using or asking administrators what professional development opportunities are out there. Utilizing social media is another easy way for teachers to see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. Searching by hashtag (think edtech, edtechteachers, or edtechchat), by a known educator, or by a device are all great ways to begin. Additionally, asking the students in your classroom for input before implementing a new tech tool can be very informative. Students may already know about the tool, have used it before, or could give you a better tutorial than something you’d find on the internet.
Embrace Student Perspectives and Differences
About half of students have social media accounts by the age of 12 (CNN). Because of this, students are exposed to all kinds of different people, opinions, and perspectives at an early age. Teachers should embrace this new awareness of diversity by giving students more choices. Not everyone learns in the same way or has the same background knowledge about topics or technology tools used in the classroom. Teachers should offer students a variety of digital tools as well as traditional tools for students to show their learning with. Teachers should also acknowledge that not everyone’s finished product or way of getting to the target goal will look the same, just as everyone sitting in the classroom does not look or sound the same. Embracing student perspectives shifts the control from the teacher to the student, giving students the power to take learning into their own hands.
Being an effective teacher in the digital age means more than just having devices available to students. Teachers take on the responsibility of utilizing tech tools to best meet the needs of every student in their classroom. This means continuously staying informed on educational tech trends and changes that are taking place. Additionally, educators can embrace student perspectives and differences in order to give students the empowerment to take control of their learning. This digital age sure is an exciting time to be a learner.