Advice to Newbies

I am in the midst of teaching an online course that focuses on educational technology for school administrators. While the focus of the course is educational technology, it is not a “tech” course. The participants do explore various technologies, but the main conversation is about how administrators can support the use of technology. The course is centered around the NETS-A and we move from visionary leadership to professional learning to systemic improvement in the course of the semester.

Many of the participants do not consider themselves technologically savvy and the course is their first online experience as well. I do a lot of hand holding at the beginning, and for some, throughout the semester, as they struggle both with the content that asks them to reconsider much of what they think about education and technology, and the technology itself. I do some scaffolding by way of screencasts of how to navigate our course in Google Sites, and I am always available to answer specific questions as I make it clear to them that they aren’t being graded on their ability to use technology.

Still, they feel overwhelmed. Their first assignment is to choose a technology and create a tutorial designed for school leaders. After reviewing her classmates’ work, one student commented on how much she loved Voice Thread and then wondered why she didn’t learn about it sooner. Another was determined to learn everything about all the new technologies that were introduced. Yet another despaired of every being more than an immigrant, unable to understand the new language and culture.

I give all of them the same piece of advice: there’s a lot of technology out there and more is being added every day. That’s the way it is going to be from now on. So, get used to always feeling behind. Give up trying to learn about all of it, but position yourself within a professional learning network that at least helps you build awareness of new trends and offer support for your learning efforts. Then, consider your needs as a teacher or administrator, and find one or two technologies that support those needs and learn all you can about them. Are you responsible for professional development? Then, maybe Google sites is a good tool for creating a shared space. Do you feel like you need to communicate better with all your stakeholders? Then, maybe you should explore how Facebook and Twitter could help with that outreach? Do you have lots of technology in your school but not much integration? Then, maybe it’s a model like TPACK that can help support your efforts.

And, when you discover a new-to-you technology like Voice Thread, don’t wonder why it took you so long. Instead, embrace it, learn about it, and be reassured that an “older” technology likely has more staying power so you won’t be facing its loss in a few weeks when the company goes under.

Finally, learning one technology in depth will support your adaptive learning as you will become more familiar with technology in general and the next time you’re facing a new program or tool, you’ll be better equipped to dive in.

What advice do you have for these newbies?

2 thoughts on “Advice to Newbies

  1. My advice? Don’t think you need to be in control of everything in the classroom, especially technology. My best experiences as a teacher came when I started to give my students control, and responsibility, of their own learning. That process starts with helping them understand how to use a variety of resources, some of them not digital, independent of you.

    1. Great advice, Tim! Teachers don’t like feeling as though they don’t know everything. I think that is part of my students’ sense of inadequacy. Your point also goes back to the recent conversations about what constitutes college readiness when it comes to technology.

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