6 tips for innovative teaching in a digital age

Veteran educator Ann McMullan offers her best advice for innovative teaching that all educators can try

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Learning to change your teaching practice in today’s digital-first world is a bit like learning a foreign language, to hear ed-tech vet Ann McMullan tell it. “You don’t speak it fluently on the first day. But you pick up one word, two words, three words, and the more you engage and the more you use it, the more  natural it begins to feel.”

McMullan, who is the former executive director of educational technology at Klein ISD in Texas, was responsible for rolling out that district’s massive one-to-one program several years ago. Now an ed-tech consultant, in this video McMullan offers her best tips for innovative teaching in a changing world.

Experiences will differ. When her district first went one-to-one, McMullan was expecting testing scores to flatline, as research predicted. “That was not our case,” she said. “Actually the scores did improve in the first year, and that was in a state where the passing standard was raised every year.” In fact, the most economically disadvantaged students in the district ended up seeing the biggest gains.

Engagement can make a big difference. Technology “is the native language of our students,” McMullan said, adding that when it’s used effectively in the classroom, students will respond to that.  “We do see discipline problem goes down; attendance goes up.”

Embrace the changing role of the teacher. Change is just a part of being a teacher today, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon. “The role of the teacher today is very different,” McMullan said. “You have to embrace that. I think change is a part of life.”

Empower yourself. The good news is that change can be empowering for teachers, when they notice the benefits of technology is having on their students. “I would not want to stand in front of a group” and lecture, McMullan said, recalling her time as an eighth-grade teacher.  “So you flip it, and you let the students be your driver.”

Even a little learning can go a long way. McMullan admits that all this change can be overwhelming for teachers. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, “find one or two things that work for you and work for a friend, and together talk it through.” From there, you can expand your base of knowledge.

Every teacher is capable. When she did professional development for teachers, McMullan noticed that there was a “wall” many teachers had that prevented them from really changing their practice. “You had to hit that wall, but once you got through it — look out!”

For more tips, check out McMullan’s 10 questions to ask before you go one-to-one.




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