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Shifting your mindset to embrace technology in the classroom

*by Stephanie Fitzwater

We are aware that educational technology has become the catalyst for transformation in the K-12 environment. We know students react well to the incorporation of technology and are increasingly demanding to be producers of knowledge. But, where do we stand as educators? Are we working on changing our mindset to accommodate the growth of technology and widespread educational reform?  Or, are we hesitant, believing we will have to start-over and recreate all of our years of previous work?

Shifting our mindset can often sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! In a previous blog, we discussed ways to review and adapt existing lesson plans to increase technology integration in the classroom. There’s no need to start from scratch and try to reprogram your pedagogy. You still know what is best for students and what will increase student achievement…the only difference is now you can employ technology to assist you with this goal! The process of adapting your current teaching strategies is easy and follows from the initial step of reviewing and adjusting existing lesson plans.

1. First, review your lesson plan and identify the learning goal and objective addressed in the lesson. Click here to read the previous blog to learn more about reviewing previous lessons to identify goals and objectives.

2. Once you have identified the learning goal, reflect on the types of learning activities you have previously used to ensure student understanding. During reflection, ask yourself: Is this lesson student or teacher centered? Is this lesson whole class instruction, small groups, or individual work? What is the duration or time allotted for the lesson? Are additional resources needed? What is the level of understanding you expect from your students? How will you assess student understanding?

In the classroom, I incorporated many opportunities for my students to work together collaboratively, whether in pairs or small groups. However, there were some lessons I felt that direct instruction worked best in knowledge building. For the objective stated above, I found that direct instruction first to build an understanding of practical ways to collect data as well as the formulas used to find the margin of error and confidence intervals was necessary. From there, I allowed students to experiment and work together to collect and interpret data. For this lesson, I used teacher centered, instruction on white board, and student-centered activities, data collection using paper surveys, as well as whole class and small group instruction.

3. After you have identified the lesson objectives and teaching activities, start thinking of how you can pair them with technology! Before you select a technology, you will first need to determine if you want your students to be consumers or producers with the technology. Once you have that under control, it is time to do some searching and to get creative! Search for new and exciting tools to use, many include free trials or discounted educational pricing. Some commonly used technologies include wikis, social media tools, blogs, interactive presentation tools, cloud based storage, sharing, and educational apps.

In reference to the objective and lesson above, I got a little crazy! First, I introduced the lesson using an interactive presentation to show them the appropriate formulas and introduce effective survey strategies. Then I encouraged students to use online survey software to collect the data. They loved this and it made it so easy for them…they didn’t actually have to talk to anyone. Last, I asked students to present their data results using an infographic. Told you, I got crazy!

We hope we have provided a guideline to follow and inspiration for adapting your current teaching strategies. As we have said in the past, start small. Work on one lesson at a time, you will be amazed at how quickly you will generate ideas and excitement in your classroom. Challenge students to produce the knowledge they are acquiring. In doing so, you will see the impact you are making on our youth while engaging students in essential 21st century skills – critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

We want to hear from you! Have you adapted previous lessons to incorporate technology? How did it go? What was the reaction from your students?

Stephanie Fitzwater
*Stephanie Fitzwater earned her BS in Mathematics Education from University of Central Florida and is currently earning her M.Ed. in Educational Technology at the University of Florida. She have taught mathematics in both traditional and virtual schools. Currently she is the Product Development Executive at Mosyle.