[Editor’s note: This story is Part 3 of our 3-part series on Lessons Learned in 2016. Click here for Part 1 on Superintendents. Click here for Part 2 on Principals.]
Educators made much of their learning opportunities in 2016, whether through professional development sessions, webinars, product demos, or even conferences. But when we asked educators where they learned the biggest lessons related to education and technology came, they largely told us it came from the classroom, through everyday interaction, failure, and perseverance among the students they see every day. Here, five school-level educators (teachers, coaches, and librarians) share their lightbulb moments during the past 12 months—and why they’re excited for the future.
Working on the Weekend
One lesson I learned this year, thanks to technology, is that there will be programs and applications you have set aside to learn about on your own time. As a teacher and tech coach, that’s hard to do, particularly with family obligations. However, in order to understand how these programs can be leveraged in the classroom, you may have to dedicate a weekend or two to exploring and playing around with the programs before introducing it to a class.
It’s easy to try to implement something new in the classroom without really understanding it and then giving up after the first failure because it is “too hard,” because “no one understands it,” or you “just don’t have time.” But on the flipside, we don’t tolerate that mindset with students, so we shouldn’t allow it in ourselves. In 2016, among other things, I took the time to focus on learning the ins and outs of ClassFlow collaborative learning software. Now I’m able to help other educators in my school implement the tool in their classrooms to create a digitally collaborative environment.
Next year, I plan to look at my growing list of websites, software, and subscription services and pick a few to dive into on my own. The goal? To truly evaluate and understand how they can be used in the classroom. No excuses necessary. —Eve Heaton, Instructional Technology Coach, Beaufort County School District (SC)
Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone
2016 was a year of firsts for me as an educator. I changed schools and grade levels, and ventured outside my comfort zone more than once. After 10 years of teaching, I was set in my ways on many things. This year proved to me that even seasoned teachers can change. Teaching a new grade came with challenges: new Common Core Standards, new Next-Gen Science standards, and implementing full Daily Five. What stands out most to me, though, were my efforts to get my learners to collaborate with each other using technology. I strive to have my learners engaged and take ownership for their own learning. I understand the benefits of group learning, but the noise factor always seemed daunting to me.
Despite my apprehension, I tried a new online tool called pivotEd this year, which changed my thoughts on learner collaboration and assessment, because I could monitor each learner’s experience and connect in real time with each of them as they navigated through an assignment. A double bonus with pivotEd was that students could sign in through their Google accounts. My learners loved using it too, which made my job even easier! This web-based program was just what I needed to safely step out of my comfort zone and successfully have my learners collaborate. —Malissa Etie, Third-grade Teacher, St. Catherine School, San Jose, CA
(Next page: Educators’ lessons learned 3-5)