It is hard to believe how much I have changed as an educator in one year: from overhead transparency user to savvy iPad teacher. It wasn’t very long ago that I was reluctant to integrate technology in my classroom. I was comfortable with teaching practices I had been implementing in my classroom for the last five years. I had developed a routine, utilizing the same notes, worksheets and tests day after day. Coming back after a year on maternity leave, I was surprised and overwhelmed with how much had changed in my school. Teachers were moving away from testing or feeling compelled to teach every single outcome. Rather than using traditional resources such as textbooks, teachers were now engaging their students through the use of technology, as in the flipped classroom model. For a while, I had resisted making major technological changes in my classroom because I thought they required a substantial time commitment and equipment (mainly computers) that I didn’t have.
Getting out of my comfort zone
A pivotal moment, that snapped me out of my comfort zone, occurred during a staff meeting when a school administrator played a video that showed students felt disengaged from school with traditional educational methods and prefer to access information electronically. This forced me to really evaluate my own teaching practices and wonder if my students were feeling disengaged or found my approach to teaching science and math boring. So at that very moment, I decided to stop making excuses and start making drastic changes to better meet the needs of my modern learners.
To push myself further in the right direction, I decided to take on the role of being one of our school’s Digital Learning Coaches (DLC). I knew this role would give me the opportunity to learn from other educators and how they were transforming their classrooms. Furthermore, I wanted to provide support to other teachers that may have felt reluctant to integrate technology like I once was.
Success after a few challenges
Today, I am a big fan of the Blended Learning model. This model has allowed me to combine the support of classroom learning with the flexibility of e-learning. I like the idea of being able to continue my traditional approach to teaching while enhancing student learning through educational on-line simulations, games and tools. I have to be honest it wasn’t easy when I first started integrating blended learning in my classroom. I found myself running from one end of the classroom to the other troubleshooting computer and Wi-Fi glitches. But over time I figured out a system that worked for me, even if it meant only half of the class was on the computers at a time.
It wasn’t too long after I made these changes that I started receiving positive feedback from my students. My GPOD 9 math students enjoyed using IXL and Mangahigh, online educational tools, so much that the first thing they would ask coming into class was if they were going to be using the computers that day. I would hear my students say they were going to practice at home and share the sites with their siblings. Hearing these positive comments from them made me realize how important student engagement was to the success of their learning.
Of course all this positive change in my classroom and professional growth would not be possible without the support and learning that has been taking place at the Digital Literacy Sessions and DLCoach district meetings. Through these sessions I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of educators in other schools that are also integrating some sort of technology in their classrooms. Since late October, a group of teachers meet Tuesday evenings for one hour through video broadcasting to discuss tech ed and share what we are doing in our classrooms. I have found these sessions to be invaluable for my growth as an educator. All these engaging and learning opportunities have motivated me to start my own collaborative group on blended learning at my school. As a coach, I feel it is my responsibility to take back what I have learned and share with my colleagues all the great educational resources available on-line.
I am hoping my blog will inspire other educators that have been hesitating to integrate technology to take the leap and see where it takes them. There will be many challenges along the way. All the struggles will be forgotten when you watch your students become fully engaged and invested in their learning!