Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Tech Integration is Like Cooking....
Before I start this post, I want to give a shout out to the Teacher Twitter Nation that responded to some of my tweets that led to this post being written. @ktenkely, @cpoole27, @mattpearson, @fejoknom, @BArcher001, @ShellTerrell, @Russsauntry, @SeanBanville, @Marissa_C, @msmithpds and anyone else that re-tweeted my comments. With educators like these, the world of education is heading in the right direction. :)
I love to cook. It's right up there with gardening. People think I'm weird when I tell them I love to do those two things. I've always been a bit of a jock and videogamer, but I have a creative side I get to show in the classroom when I teach, but also when I garden and cook. I was thinking about cooking, mostly because I was hungry, but I realized that there is a link to how I learned to cook and how I have integrated technology as a teacher. I hope these comparisons help you or teachers you know start to bring new forms of technology to your students.
Start Boiling Eggs Before You Make A Turkey
I needed to start off simple so I wouldn't overwhelm myself on the first time out. Once I mastered the easy stuff for myself and then my friends and family, I could move on to more complicated dishes. You need to build confidence as a cook. You are not going to run your own kitchen on the first time out, but you can develop some very important skills while learning the ropes on easy dishes that will prepare you for more difficult ones later on.
Finding new technology for your classroom is the same. You need to find things that you feel will be easy to take on when starting out. It can be a blog, a discussion board or a class website. Whatever you feel you can tackle first, start there. It's important that you use something you feel comfortable with before you start to share it with students. If you are not comfortable, they will not be. Imagine a cook that does not look confident biting into their own burger, Yikes!
Don't Reinvent the Cookbook
When I started cooking, I relied on The Food Network, The Naked Chef Cookbook and various websites. These sources of information were helpful as I tried new and different things. Although one person might be an award winning chef, someone else might have an even better take on the same dish. I looked for sources of information that could help me become a better cook. You might be surprised to know that your friends have recipes that you would love. At this stage, I did not need to create a new recipe every time I cooked, I just needed to see what recipes worked for me.
With Technology, we are blessed with so many people out there that know more about tech that you or me. These teachers are dying to share their information with the world. The only thing you need to do is look around. If there is a teacher in your building using "Clickers" in their class, ask them how they use it and if you can watch. There are many blogs by teachers and for teachers that deal with technology. Your reading one right now. Once you find something you like, try repeating what they did. Once you master that, try changing it to better fit your needs.
One Spice Does Not Fit All
In my early cooking stages, I would find a spice I loved and I would use it on everything. I did not care if the spice was for pork only or chicken only, I used it on everything. There were a few meals that were not great because of it. I had to learn that certain spices work for certain foods for a reason. Find the right spice for the right food and you will have a better meal in the long run.
It is very easy to assume that this new technology you have fallen in love with will apply to all areas of your curriculum. That is not always the case. Trial and error is the best way to explore, but be prepared for a bad lesson or two if you use it on everything. Use your tech sparingly on the outset. Look for ways that lessons can be connected using the tech and integrate them that way. Not all lesson might need a spice of technology.
All Of The Spices At Once Is Not A Good Idea
Spices are good things. They can enhance the flavor of any dish. They should be used to accent a flavor already found in the pasta, meat or veggie. Adding too much or too many spices will take away from the food itself and can even make the meal taste terrible.
Don't just use all of the technology at once because technology is good. Use only some of it here and there to add some flavor to your lesson plan. They should not take over the actual lesson, but just give it a little kick to appeal to a wider audience.
You Need A Few Bad Meals Before You Create A Masterpiece
I cannot even count the number of failed recipes I tried to put together when I started to explore my personal creative side of cooking. I would mix and match spices that seemed great separately, but were a total disaster. Learning cooking times for certain veggies and meats so that everything can be done at the same time is not an easy thing to learn on your own, but it was important that I do not get discouraged as I cooked. I was ok with making bad meals as long as I went back and noted what went wrong and tried to fix it or scrap it and start over.
We have all created lessons that have not worked out in the classroom. We go in with the best intentions and sometimes it is just a dud. At the end of the day, we sit back and try to figure out what went wrong. Sometimes it's something very simple and the lesson is a hit next year. Other times, the whole thing needs to be scrapped. Integrating technology needs to be treated the same way. You might plug it into a lesson and it works great or it fails. It's important not to give up and try to find what went wrong. If ti can be fixed, fix it. If it can't try to find another way to make it work with a different lesson. You can't give up after a few bad lessons. Most of us would be gone after the first year if that was the case.
When You Finally Get the Right Recipe, Write It Down!
There have been too many times where I finally found the right mix of spices, cooking length and other variables and then I realize I did not write any of it down. I got so into the process and the great thing that I was creating that I didn't take a second to jot some notes down. It's ok if you get used to cooking something that you no longer need a recipe, but it is always good to have in case you need it or your friend asks for that awesome Eggplant Parm you make.
Bookmark or save pages that are helpful to you. Write down and save lesson plans that you create. These are great sources of information when something works or doesn't work. You can go back and hopefully pinpoint the best or worst part. Also, when something works well, you should share it with the world. The only way you can share that awesome lesson on The Declaration of Independence is if you have it written down somewhere.
Know Who You Are Cooking For
I love Tomatoes. My Wife does not like Tomatoes. It's amazing we got married despite this terrible division. When I cook , I need to remember that she is not a fan of tomatoes and I need to make adjustments to my recipes. Some tomato use is unavoidable and she grins and bares it, but I try to make the accommodation because I do not want to eat alone.
Just because you love the Document Camera does not mean everybody is going to love the Document Camera. They should try it, but they don't have to love it. Your students might not like the different types of tech you bring to the class. That might change from year to year. Kids are picky. You need to be ready top adjust your lessons so everybody can enjoy the learning process. Like my wife though, some students will have to have some technology whether they like it or not because it's just part of the recipe, I mean lesson.
You Are Now Ready For Thanksgiving Dinner
After spending time working on the various recipes, I felt confident to invite the family over for Thanksgiving Dinner. I decided to use a combination of personal recipes and ones borrowed or tweaked from other people. I had others who helped me along the way, but I was in charge of the show. There were a few stumbles along the way, but the meal went very well. Drinking Wine along the way did not hurt. :)
After some time, you will feel comfortable to show everyone what you have learned. You can do this at a department meeting or in front of the entire staff. Know that you do not have to do this alone. Ask others to help you along the way and do some of the little things so you can focus on the big picture. It would be a shame if you learned all of these new tech tips and did not share them with the teachers in your building. Sharing is what teachers do. Teaching teachers is not an easy thing to do, but if you can teach one teacher, you are teaching hundreds of students.
Post a comment with your thoughts. I know I left some things out that I will add in at a later date, but I wanted to get a few of these ideas down while they were fresh in the noggin.