Sunday, February 21, 2010

Everything I Needed to Know About Technology Integration I Learned From Watching Star Wars

Yes, I'm going there. I wouldn't be The Nerdy Teacher if I didn't. People seemed to really like my Cooking and tech integration piece, so I thought I would reach out to the non-cooking crowd and offer them something they can relate to. For those of you who have not watched Star Wars, please seek help. Whether you are a "nerd" or not, Star Wars is a part of mainstream pop culture and it's important to at least be aware of the allusions that are made day to day. If you refuse to watch Star Wars, then you are nothing but a no good Nerf Herder.

Final note, these quote are drawn from the Original Three Star Wars Episodes (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi). The next three installments do not exist as far as I'm concerned. Maybe the last hour of Episode Three, but there will be no Jar-Jar references found below.

A long time ago, in a blog far far away...

"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." - Princess Lea, Episode IV

I think the most important step in tech integration is knowing when to ask for help. A teacher cannot be expected to be an expert on everything in the classroom. If you are interested in adding some new tech to the classroom, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for support. Look within the district and see if they offer any classes that you might be able to attend, or look for other teachers in the building that might be willing to lend you a hand in implementing new forms of tech in the classroom. It's not going to be easy, but it's better than sitting around and watching the world go by or getting caputred by the Imperial Army with plans to the Death Star.

"Do or do not, there is no try." - Master Yoda, Episode V

Master Yoda was wise beyond his 900 years. This bit of advice applies to all walks of life. Tech integration is not something you can "sort of" do. I'm not saying that you have to go all in and have every piece of tech you can lay your hands on. I'm saying that you can't try it once and give it up. It needs to be an ongoing process of trial and error. I view trying as doing something and giving up. Doing is a continual effort to make something work or happen. Keep fighting to find the right tech for you and your classroom. Not everything is going to work, but keep doing and you will find the right fit.

"When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the Master." - Darth Vader, Episode IV

When I started teaching, I was given a mentor to help guide me through the first few years of school. As time went by though, I found myself offering tips to my mentor regarding lessons I'm using or this new piece of tech that I discovered. Before long, I realized that I was helping many other teachers with different aspects of technology. It was such a interesting experience. I was sharing what I learned with great teachers (I'm not just saying that because they might read this later). It was a way for me to offer them something that was different than what they had offered me in the past. The problem with Darth Vader was that he was intent on replacing Obi-Wan. The goal should not be replacement, but mentoring. Mentoring can be a two way street if done correctly. Everybody has something to offer, it's important to listen.

"I find you lack of faith disturbing." - Darth Vader, Episode IV


Luke - "I can't believe it."
Yoda - "That is why you fail" - Episode V

Be confident! As a teacher, you need to be confident in front of your students. If they sense any sort of weakness, they will eat you alive. Take your time and understand the tech you want to use. Play with it at home or during your prep hour to make sure that know all of the ins and outs of the tech. Also, be prepared to say, "I'm not sure, but I'll check on that for you." You need to have faith that you are going to do a good job and that you will be able to help students learn to use the tech to improve their learning.

You also need to be confident when explaining new tech to your fellow teachers and admins. Show them how to use it and how it worked in your classroom. faith in yourself is an important thing to have and that can be passed to others as they try to learn new things. If you do not have faith in yourself, you might choke like an Imperial officer who has displeased Lord Vader.

"We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life." - C3PO, Episode IV

Poor C3PO. He seems to be the brunt of jokes and finds himself in the most precarious of situations. He means very well and wants nothing more than to help the people around him. As a teacher, it feels like we are C3PO. We work hard on lessons. Making sure they are current and relevant. Fixing the parts that didn't work even though they worked wonders last year. The thought of adding something entirely new to the classroom feels like torture. It was stressful for me to even think about doing something new and untested in my class. Technology needs to be treated like a fun new adventure that is going to make life easier in the classroom. Finding new ways to engage students in learning should never be viewed as a burden. That should be the goal of every teacher. If you want teachers to love the new tools you have discovered, you need to present it in a fun and exciting way. Look beyond sending links to teachers. That is going to feel like work and is most often deleted.Think of ways that you can introduce new tech to teachers in a fun ans engaging way. Now teachers will not feel like they are suffering when new tools are introduced to them.

"Fear is the path to the dark side." Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV

You cannot fear tech integration. Technology is changing education and it's important to embrace it. Many teachers were bothered by the introduction of the computer and email in the school system. They thought it was not important and that they could live without it. Now, they could not imagine doing any of their work or communicating with others without computers and email. The point is, shying away from new technology is not going to solve anything. Embrace the bits and pieces that you think can make a difference in your classroom and share that with others. With this strategy, you will stay far away from the dark side.

"Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy." - Han Solo, Episode IV

Tech integration is not going to be a walk in the park. For some of us, we can take a new site or tool and use it like we created it. For others, it will take many hours of tinkering to understand the basic functions of the tool. We know, as teachers, that students learn thing at different rates. Teacher are no different. With patience and hand holding, any teacher can understand and use all of the different types of tech out there. As long as teachers understand that the process will not be as simple as using a chalkboard, they will not be as easily frustrated when learning new tech.

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." - Darth Vader, Episode IV

The last, and best quote, comes from Lord Vader. I think this speak volumes about technology integration. Some might read this quote and think that it suggests that tech is bad and unneeded in the classroom. I look at the quote and think that it speaks about something different. The Force is our ability to teach. The best teachers have it and use it everyday. If you do not have the Force, no amount of new tech is going to inspire your students. A IWB or cool new website is worthless without the Force. My slate and websites are great, but they are helpful because I use what I've learned as a teacher to make the effective and relevant in my classroom. As a teacher, it's important to not just use the tools, but to teach with the tools. As we all know, the tech can fail at any moment and all that is left is our wits to guide us. Teaching will always trump and new form of tech on its own. Remember this when you are introduced to a new piece of tech. How will you use the Force and the tool together to make you classroom a great learning environment for all.

These are just a few thoughts on Technology Integration. Take and leave what you want and share with others. Thanks for stopping by.

- @TheNerdyTeacher


  1. Great post! What a cool way to connect your thoughts with some of the quotes from Star Wars. To add to the "dusting crops" quote, I ran several technology sessions over the summer for faculty and at one point one of the more "veteran" teachers told me that I kept saying how easy each tool was but she did not find it easy at all. It made her feel worse that she did not get it right away. I immediately removed that word from my sessions. Like you stated, we must remember that it is not easy for everyone as it may be for us. She also realized that her students feel the same at times and will attempt to avoid telling her students how easy something may be.

    As for your focus on the first three episodes and avoidance of all things Jar Jar, I wholeheartedly agree!

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  3. Love it Nick! Great personal reflection/connection. It's so true what you said about needing the force to use the tech. We've come a long way since districts simply buying up the latest gadgets and expecting immediate increased learning from the students. Teachers need to be trained. We've still a ways to go, but I can vaguely see the light at the end of the... saber (apologies).

  4. Hmm, I feel like this post was written as a result of a Twitter comment I made... My dad informed me after seeing my tweet, that I have indeed seen StarWars and even had my own R2D2 remote control robot. I vaguely remember the robot and princess Lea.
    On a side note, I have seen the Ewok(sp?) Adventure about 50 times (my little brother was a huge fan).

    Great lessons learned, may just have to add it to Netflix.

  5. Yes! Don't forget another jem from Yoda: "Action, adventure...a jedi craves not these things." Or another one from Return of the Jedi, when Han tells Chewy to "Fly casual, but don't look like you're trying to fly casual." So many words of wisdom.

  6. I really love this analogy even though, gasp, I am in the group that has never seen Star Wars.

  7. Oh, the wisdom of Star Wars... :) Of course, Luke would never have been able to succeed without a little help from his friends. Good thing we have Twitter!
    Thanks for this fun post with great connections. :)

  8. I don't remember much of what I've seen of Star Wars but I get this post anyway. I don't feel like I have to be an expert before I show kids an application, however. In projects where I give my student a choice of products, I sometimes have to explain that I'm not so familiar with a tool but I'm happy to help them figure it out if stuck. That has worked well for me and the kids love showing me the things that they've discovered that I may not know. I also take the opportunity to model problem solving and the use of the help and tutorial features, where applicable.


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