At the beginning of my edtech adventure, technology integration sounded like something I would have to go to my administration and beg for tens of thousands of dollars to get anything done. (Don’t get me wrong, I still want and mobile device carts!)
But as I did further research, I found out new ways of integrating technology and 21st century skills with the resources that I already had. Which meant that I did not have to beg for money! I did however have to ask for time, support and an opportunity to move the school closer to the digital age than the year before. We built a Windows computer lab about 4 years ago. That was an expensive project and the administrators felt that this was a huge step into digital times.
We used the lab to focus on teaching students the Microsoft environment and basic Internet skills. What a treat it was for a student to use PowerPoint and give a presentation in class. How dreadful it was for a students to have to type their book report on MS Word (or was it mom that typed it?).
Part of my job was to get them all comfortable with computers and then kick it up! As my knowledge base was growing, I was able to share ideas with the administration and educators at my school about how we can incorporate some really cool Web 2.0 tools into their already existing curriculum.
The Free Web Versions Of Popular Tools
How about instead of PowerPoint, let’s try Prezi. Instead of MS Word, let’s try Google Drive, and instead of saving conversation for class time, use Edmodo and extend the conversation outside the classroom! Don’t worry folks, it won’t cost extra! Not only were we able to refresh and “digitize” our lesson plans and assignments, but we were also able to introduce peer collaboration and critical thinking skills in ways that we were not able before.
One tool at a time, our teachers and administration began using Web 2.0 tools for their daily tasks and then eventually used tools to liven up some outdated lessons. Before you know it, the schools forms were converted to Google forms that our parents were filling out. Teachers were using ClassDojo for behavior management and BitStrips for social studies lessons!
The Right Path
Of course, we are far from our goals but at least we are on the right path. The key to getting there is continual support by the administration, constant professional development opportunities for our teachers and, yes, money! Thankfully, we have outgrown our 25 computer Windows PC lab and moved on to a 1:1 iPad program in our middle school.
But there is no stopping us now! We need to be able to utilize apps for the classroom to help with student organization, learning and differentiation. This is going to be a very big expense for our school but I believe that we have already justified to the administrators that our students and teachers are ready for the challenge and that we are thirsty for more educational technology!