Teachers are learners, too. And differentiation applies to how teachers learn as well.
If you purchased any new computerized device in the last few years—smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or even a camera—you probably did not find a printed user’s guide in the box.
Perhaps you got it working and figured out the basics, but it was your preteen daughter who showed you how to zoom your screen to read the fine print. When you shared your frustration over trying to sort and edit photos with your friend, he quickly showed you three of his favorite apps for doing just that. If using that software was not an intuitive act, you had to search online for better instructions. You were probably born before 1980.
Then again, maybe you tossed the box and the “Getting Started” sheet and dove right in, quickly learning to navigate the programs and tricks to make your device work with you. By day two you had customized your home screen (no longer a “desktop”) and integrated your calendars and contacts, video-called a few friends, and checked out a few eBooks from the public library. You were probably born after 1980.
This difference is a reality in how teachers teach and students learn. Research in brain science has shown that the developing brains of people growing up with hands-on tech from ages 3 to 15 are actually wired differently from people who did not have that experience in their childhood. Those who adapt to technology as adults bring their own way of learning to the equation and can be frustrated with many models of tech training.
Tech developers and trainers know this. Their focus is on moving ed tech forward, integrating it with a classroom, and helping teachers view it as an integral tool for teachers and students. They can’t anticipate every learning style any more than you can when setting up a lesson plan. But they have tools to help. You just have to open the conversation.
Before your next tech training, think about your own learning style and tech comfort level. Then try some of these ideas to help you get the most out of the opportunity:
1. Master your own personal tech. Your smartphone, your tablet, even your DVD player—it will make you more comfortable with the entire tech-learning process, and it might even simplify your life. You can ask others for help—kids, friends, fellow teachers—but at some point, it would be great to be able to teach someone else how to best manage their Dropbox, cloud, and personal files.
2. Study before you go to training. Don’t try to learn it all there—use the training for hands-on and questions. Check out webinars and YouTube videos that show you how this app or that program works. If you’re learning a whole new school-wide tech system, study the developer’s website and reviews before you go to training.
3. Ask questions. If everyone else in the session appears to be smiling and nodding, ask anyway. You need to walk away with the same understanding as they have, so raise your hand. Besides, it might be a bobblehead invasion instead of understanding that’s causing them to nod and agree. Ask any trainer—they want you to raise your hand!
4. Fellow teachers can be great trainers. You may not know all the bells and whistles of the tech your school is using or hoping to use. But poll your peers, and set up some shared time for cross-training one another on your own strong points. Keep a chat going online and support each other.
5. Ask trainers what their main “take-away” points are up front. They may resist, but it often helps people follow the process to know what the expected outcome is.
6. Believe this: You are a teacher who is comfortable with classroom technology. Yes, your comfort level may be higher or lower than that of other teachers. Start leveling the playing field by shifting your mind—you are just as capable of mastering these new classroom tools as any other teacher. As a peer group, you are all equal participants and supporters of each other as well as your students.
7. Expect change! Anticipate that the tech of your classroom in five years will be different from today—and welcome it. It’s going to happen. It is happening in all areas of work outside of classrooms. Even your smartphone will seem obsolete one day.
Technology is changing fast. Year after year, you will train and learn many new things. Knowing how you learn is as important when training on classroom technology as it is in teaching. Whether you attend workshops, take courses, or self-train, respect your own learning style. Then adapt and find ways to make the most of every learning opportunity.
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“10 Tips for Teachers Who Struggle with Technology” from Ask a Tech Teacher
Digital Game-Based Learning: The Games Generations: How Learners Have Changed by Marc Prensky
“Brain Science in the Classroom” from Education Week
“Are Teachers of Tomorrow Prepared to Use Innovative Tech?” from KQED News
“V2N1: The Generation Gap: Bridging Learners and Educators” from International Digital Media and Arts Association
“The Science of Learning: How Current Brain Research Can Improve Education” from Neuron Learning, an international education company