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3 tips for finding the best teacher-helpful edtech

How to find technology that helps teachers make the most effective use of their time.

Learning how to effectively use and implement new classroom edtech requires educators to spend their most valuable currency: time. Time spent troubleshooting technology in the classroom is wasted, and it can make educators skeptical of new technology.

My role as a school technology coordinator in San Diego is to make the edtech integration process easy and manageable for our teachers. This was especially true when we decided to implement the blended learning teaching philosophy. Since blended learning increases the role technology plays in education, we needed to find technology that would help our educators make the most effective use of their time.

Regardless of teaching philosophy, you must discover which edtech resources will provide an authentic learning experience for your students and make the most effective use of teachers’ time. The following is a three-step technology integration approach that you can follow to ensure you are prepared to discover and deploy new technology.

1. Align edtech with school mission
Thoroughly assess how a potential edtech resource aligns with your goals as an educator or with your school’s mission before introducing it to your teachers and students. Technology should closely align with these standards:

  • Increase the quality of teacher face time with students
  • Help teachers work smarter, not harder
  • Compatibility with edtech ecosystem
  • Support student achievement goals

For instance, our teachers use iPads for various aspects of instruction (including modeling), but students predominantly use Chromebooks because they need keyboards for web technologies and web-based standardized testing. Therefore, the edtech software we consider must be device agnostic to work around our diverse ecosystem of iPads, Chromebooks and MacBooks.

(Next page: 2 more steps to choosing the best teacher-helpful edtech)

2. Focus on professional development for teachers
Our educators complete a teacher “tech trek.” Part of this “tech trek” is to earn their Leading Edge Certification, a nationally recognized certificate for online and blended learning teachers. The “tech trek” includes hours of professional development that helps them learn how to effectively use edtech resources. Our educators also attend conferences such as CUE and ISTE for additional professional development.

The result? I am no longer the only tech expert at my school. We have more than 40 certified educators. That allows us to use professional development time more effectively because we don’t have to spend time on tech basics. We are able to have more deep conversations about what instruction means and what role technology plays in that.

3. Find technology that complements your learning environment
The technology you need depends on your school’s or educators’ teaching practices. What works in one classroom may not work in another. It’s generally a good idea to begin by finding tools that increase student access to teacher knowledge, feedback and instruction.

For example, our teachers use mobile apps such as Notability to annotate and model vocabulary during “think aloud” sessions with students. They discuss word roots and words of the week. Then they use Reflector to wirelessly display mobile devices on the teacher’s computer. Teacher computers are connected to a projector, so the whole class can see what’s happening on the “mirrored” mobile devices.

This combination of educational apps and screen-mirroring software allows the entire class to collaborate. Each teacher or student can share what’s happening on the mobile device in his or her hands with everyone in the room. This creates a sense of community in the classroom, aligns with all of our standards and complements our learning environment.

An important note here: the most popular solution isn’t always going to be the best fit for your school. Do your research to discover what works, tap into your PLN for recommendations and use your educational goals as a guide. Speaking with teachers is always an incredibly enlightening experience for me—it promotes collaboration between educators and the technology team that allows you to more effectively identify solutions and resolve issues.

Long-term adjustments and training
You can begin your tech integration journey using the points I outlined above, but remember that educational philosophies and learning environments are not stagnant. You and your school will need to adapt as technology, leadership and most importantly, student needs, evolve around you.

I would be happy to continue this conversation and hear your ideas on technology integration. You may reach me on twitter @alex_g_ojeda.

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