It's funny how I have become such a creature of habit and have to force myself out of my comfort zone to try something new. When reflecting on how this came to be, I realized there has been a progression I've gone through for certain behaviors to become a habit. This progression is directly related to my philosophy regarding technology. When a particular tech tool achieves the status of my "go-to" technology, it's become an instructional habit, so to speak.
So which tools are my "go-to" technology and therefore my instructional habits? To understand where I'm headed, I want to reflect back to my experiences as a classroom teacher in first and second grades.
My first "go-to" tech tool was PowerPoint, which helped to organize my instruction. It was a tool that I practiced with in a variety of subject areas, and as I became proficient at designing and implementing instruction with PowerPoint in conjunction with my SmartBoard, my instruction became efficient and virtually seamless because I could incorporate my learning objectives. thinking prompts, and visual aids. Students had a structure that allowed them to know what to expect while also offering some variations in the content (such as videos and website links) and the tasks assigned to them. Once this tool became an instructional habit (when I felt I had achieved efficiency), I was able to naturally progress to Smart Notebook, a program that had similar design features to PowerPoint, but with the added element of manipulation of items within the slideshow, thus increasing student engagement.
This was when my thinking had begun to shift towards offering more student use of technology, rather than strictly instructional technology for me as the teacher. My first truly student-oriented technology project was the user-friendly PhotoStory as a production tool for writing. When beginning to consider the orchestration of a student-produced project, it can be overwhelming to identify all the details necessary to ensure success. Again, this is where I had to lay down my perfectionistic tendencies and remind myself that it takes practice to lead to proficiency. I highly recommend practicing without students and conducting a task analysis of the different components required to put a project together. The task analysis helps to determine which pieces need more scaffolding than others as I support students towards independence with the tool, but as every classroom teacher knows, there is always going to be that one student who presents an unanticipated challenge. Chalk it up to a learning opportunity and add it to the "anticipated" for the next time, because there needs to a be a next time or the progression from practice to proficiency to efficiency (instructional habits and tools) will never be achieved.
Since beginning my position as a tech coach, which happened to coincide with the impact of Common Core standards in my district, I have been exploring a myriad of tools in order to expand my understanding of their implications and possibilities, both for teachers and students. My journey into instructional technology has relied on practice leading to proficiency, and then ultimately, efficiency with the tech tool placed it firmly as an instructional habit. With more emphasis on student technology projects and opportunities for collaboration, I have to remember that pushing myself out of my comfort zone will help me form new habits worth the investment of time and effort.
I am a technology integration coach for a school district supporting one preschool, fifteen elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools. Check here for the latest updates on instructional technology.