I recently participated in the last techie challenge for this year, which was a Smart Board training session presented by my district’s software specialist. While I have had the board hanging in my room for a few years, I felt like it had lost some of its initial luster, and I really had not thought much lately about finding new ways to use it. During the session I learned a few time saving tips and tricks that will certainly make my workflow more efficient. Some of these were simple things that make it easier to import documents or images from the web into the Smart Notebook program that acts as the board’s main interface application (this was something I was already doing, but in a more cumbersome and time-consuming way), while some others were features I had never really used or considered using, such as the Smart Exchange server that provides a searchable database of thousands of user-created Smart Notebook-based lessons that are able to be both downloaded and customized.
Aside from the tangible benefits I gleaned from the session it also set me to thinking (again) about the role of technology in our lives as educators. This latest reflection has solidified for me to two important conclusions regarding educational technology. First, there are experts all around us and technology can help us both harness the expertise of the collective group for the benefit of our students as well as greatly increase the size of that group (more on this below). Second, that almost any bit of technology can be used in creative and innovative ways to enhance our workflow, communication, instruction, or assessment. Throughout this year I have been exposed to what seems like a limitless variety of technological options that all have potential educational uses. At times this choice can be overwhelming. I have found that the key to successfully navigating the sea of ed tech integration is to remember that technology is the means to an end, not the end itself. As tempting as it is to use a flashy bit of tech, it is important to ensure that it enhances and ideally, transforms student learning. The SAMR model provides a useful framework for thinking about integrating technology in such a way while friendly local experts and a personal learning network (PLN) can provide helpful guidance in selecting and using appropriate tech.
Technology now provides us with the means to expand our ability to learn and collaborate by eliminating the limits of geography and proximity, connecting us in a truly global network of shared educational wisdom and practice.
As so many have reflected before me, sometimes it seems like teaching is a solitary task. Throughout my experiences this year I have realized that this notion is entirely an artificial and self-imposed construct. There is real value in breaking out of our perceived solitary confinement and becoming connected educators. When I first began looking to flip my classroom, use applications to automate tasks such as assigning and scoring quizzes, or design flipped video-based lessons, I relied largely on myself and a few members of my school community. To these I can now add the collected knowledge of my PLN, accessed largely through Twitter (@MrVigliotti) and blogs, to expand my knowledge as I seek out changes and new ideas to improve my instructional practice. And for this, I have the 10 Things Techie challenge to thank, as it prompted me to take the Twitter plunge and access the collective educational knowledge of no less than the entire planet! Without developing my PLN through Twitter, I would not have discovered the excellent resources of Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1), the cool and inspirational ideas of Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) and Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd), or the shared wisdom of Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), Alec Couros (@courosa), and David Culberhouse (@DCulberhouse)…and these are just the tip of the collective iceberg that Twitter has to offer. If utilized effectively, technology now provides us with the means to expand our ability to learn and collaborate by eliminating the limits of geography and proximity, connecting us in a truly global network of shared educational wisdom and practice.
Going forward I am inspired to continue to connect, learn, discover, and innovate new ways to integrate technology and adjust my instructional practice. Emboldened and empowered by my recent forays into the ever-expanding world of my PLN, I look forward to future collaborations and the ongoing exposure to the limitless stream of new ideas and wisdom which prompts me to continually reflect and examine my own thinking about what it means to be an educator in the 21st century.