I’m new to the game of using technology in education. I’ve sat by the sidelines for the last few years, listening to the arguments, and never being in a school that provides any modern tech or having the personal economic strength to buy it for myself.
Instead, I’ve waited, watched, listened, and I think I’m finally ready to jump in.
Teaching In The United Arab Emirates
As an overseas teacher, I have learned a lot about education in the past 5 years. I work in the United Arab Emirates, and while most people would hear the names Dubai or Abu Dhabi, assuming everyone here is rolling in money (and therefore the schools must be the best) they would be mistaken. This country, for all its economic strength, still has schools that are terrible and schools that are excellent. I feel fortunate that I am in a school that is one of the best in the country, and I am proud of the work we do here.
However, we are not rolling in cash at my school. We get by with the budget we have, and we make do with the resources we can afford. In the process of working here, I’ve learned to be resourceful and adaptive with using technology on my own, and figuring out ways I can make it work in my day-to-day environment.
I am an Apple fan-boy. Most of my students would be able to tell you this in a second. Yet, they know this not because of long-winded Steve Jobs apologetics lessons, but because they see me trying to figure out this “technology-in-education” thing. I am starting to succeed in this area because they see me trying to make things more relevant, they see me when I fail, and they see me when things go well.
Getting My Electronic Feet Wet
For this I can say that I’m really only beginning to get my electronic feet wet. This year, I’m doing what I can to really embrace blended learning and using technology in ways that are beneficial and pedagogically sound for the students. This has set me apart. It sets me apart not because I’m really good at what I do–I would be the first to admit that I’m barely scratching the surface (pardon the Microsoft pun).
But what I am doing in sticking my toe in the water. I’m trying to figure out what works for me, and what works for the students. I’m learning, as Justin Reich so aptly described in his blog post “Why It’s Not About the iPad,” that the goal of technology in the classroom is not the tech itself, but rather helping the students learn.
I am not a teacher of literature, I am not a teacher of iPad apps, I am not a teacher of iambic pentameter: I am a teacher of students. Students come first, and everything else comes in relation on how I can help them in their life.
Using School-Based Twitter
This year, for the first time, I’m running a school-based Twitter account. On it, students can ask me questions, I can post assignment reminders, articles I find online that they can read, and generally interact with the students in a much more “real-world” environment. It’s been a huge success, I would say. In addition, I’m trying to do more with integrating apps like Evernote and our school’s “Portal” space into what I do every day, doing what “flipping” of the classroom I’m able (so far, not much). I don’t have it figured out. But the small inroads I’ve made so far have been successful.
My students are impressed by what they see, not because I’m doing anything that’s really cool, or amazing, or life-changing. Instead, they are impressed because they see my trying to make things better for them. They see me trying to speak in their learning languages while not pretending to be “hip” or “popular” (if you knew me, you’d know I’m very far from those things). This is what counts. This is what makes it all worthwhile to me–the uploading of files to Dropbox, the posting of class notes from the IWB onto the Portal space, the posting of assignments to my Google Sites page.
My Advice To You
If I had anything to say to anyone else, it would be this: if you want to show your students you care, if you want to try to be a better teacher, consider getting your electronic toes wet.
Consider stretching yourself and trying something new. Twitter may not be for you. Evernote might freak you out. But maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll find something that works, that speaks to you, that gets you excited. And maybe you can pass that along to the students. What’s better than that: sharing what we love with our students, and helping them learn in the process?