EdTech, or Educational Technology, has become somewhat of a buzzword of recent times. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any school these days who doesn’t have a strategy/mission/vision for the incorporation of technology into teaching and learning. In my opinion, this is a good thing as long as the tech used is carefully chosen, and not just used as a way to opt out of actual teaching.
The danger with ploughing headfirst into the exciting world of apps, extensions, devices, and interactivity, is that there is just SO MUCH of it. When I started teaching at my current school two years ago, a low-decile state school, I had been teaching the same subjects for around twelve years and, without any modesty, could teach it blindfolded whilst doing the Macarena. What I failed to realise was, I was simply not fully engaging students even though I tried hard to make my lessons “fun”. Sure, the kids told me they enjoyed my lessons, but my present school’s use of Google for Education and Hapara has shown me that I wasn’t adequately preparing them for what they may encounter in the future.
No one can precisely predict the jobs of the future, or the way that employees will need to work to be successful. But what we can foresee is that the world is getting smaller, we are becoming more and more connected. In order to prepare these students, these “digital natives” (and I hate that word), I needed to incorporate digital collaboration and creativity into my classes.
I jumped off the deep end, and promptly started to sink. I loved all the new ideas and apps I was discovering, and excitedly used them at school. However, I became a “jack of all trades, master of none”. It was exhausting. I was up all night working out how to use each new interactive tool, finding ways to use them with my class. And, depressingly, nine times out of ten my students would whizz through the task and question WHY they were doing their work like that. Hmm. The best advice was given to me at a GAFE Summit I attended a few months into my new job. I think it was Kimberley Hall, one of the keynote speakers, who told me that it was impossible to know about every app out there and to initially focus on mastering only one or two. So I decided to only worry about using the Hapara dashboard and know my way around Google Drive. Sure, I still use a myriad of different online games and other tools to engage students and encourage collaboration and enquiry, but I have now become one of the go-to people at school when a colleague has questions about our two main EdTech packages. Next step, gain Google Educator accreditation, my personal professional development challenge in the next few months.