Driving Question: How can we develop tech-savvy teachers?
Kipp D. Rogers, Ph.D. is Director of Secondary Instruction for York County Schools in York County, Virginia. As an author of several articles and three books on integrating technology into instruction, Dr. Rogers regularly shares his expertise at workshops and seminars with educators across the United States. Follow Kipp on Twitter: @KippRogers.
Many school administrators classify teacher technology users into two categories: those who use technology and those who don’t. As a former principal who worked hard to encourage teachers to integrate technology into instruction, I can definitely see where some administrators would divide the technology integration line right down the middle. While this school of thought is logical, after having worked with and trained hundreds of teachers and administrators on integrating technology into instruction, I have found that there are generally three categories of technology teachers. I refer to them as, Digital Rock Stars (Digi-Stars), Digital Groupies (Digi-Groupies)and Digital Phobes (Digi-Phobes).
In order to develop a culture where these three categories of teachers embrace using technology in everyday instruction, it is important to understand the dynamics of teacher skill set and efficacy in terms of technology integration. For example, when school districts implement new technology initiatives such as “Bring Your Own Technology”, in this instance, Digi-Stars will more than likely be the tech-savvy go-getters who are unafraid of implementing the new initiative, whereas Digi-Groupies may have an interest in implementing the new initiative, but may not have the skill-set to be proficient at the time of implementation. These teachers often look to Digi-Stars for support. Digi-Phobes tend to shy away from integrating technology for various reasons. The good news is, in many cases when Digi-Groupies and Digi-Phobes are shown a technology tool that is easy to use and relevant to what they are teaching, they often put forth the effort.
Introducing Digi-Groupies and Phobes to technology tools that are easy to use is critical if we want to increase the pool of Digital Rock Stars in schools. We have to recognize that teachers (Stars, Groupies and Phobes) are the gatekeepers of technology being integrated into instruction and we must meet them where they are. While I don’t believe teachers have to become experts in the technology they allow students to use, I do believe they have to establish a moderate level of comfort with tools before sharing them with students. One of the key pieces of building capacity in technology integration for teachers (especially Digi-Phobes) is having adequate training using tools that are easy, meaningful and relevant to what they are teaching.
Providing meaningful training on technology tools is easier said than done. With so many tools available for teachers to make learning more engaging for students, it is often a challenge to decide on an easy technology tool to share with teachers. With the help of my Professional Learning Network (PLN) from Twitter, over the past few years, I have accumulated a long list of easy-to-use technology tools to share with teachers of all skill levels. Today, I’d like to share one of my favorites —TodaysMeet.
TodaysMeet is a free back channeling tool that allows students (or adults) to have a real time conversation while a live or virtual presentation takes place. You might refer to TodaysMeet as a 21st Century note-passing tool. When I was a principal, I used it to guide discussions at faculty meetings. When I conduct trainings with teachers, I use it as a “parking lot” for questions, comments and sharing of ideas. Recently I used TodaysMeet at our state technology conference as part of a lunch panel discussion on BYOT with technology staff from my school district, Steve Dembo from Discovery Education and Snow White from Dell Computers. Amazingly, the conversation that took place on TodaysMeet was much richer than the live discussion that transpired between school districts sharing how they are using BYOT. The attendees readily asked questions of the panel and of each other in the TodaysMeet room. They even posted links to helpful BYOT sites and videos.
Students are no different from adults when using TodaysMeet. I’ve found that students learn just as much from each other as they do from the teacher when using the tool. Teachers I’ve worked with enjoy using TodaysMeet for several reasons. It’s easy to use, free, generally safe (as only students with access to the URL can access it), and it does not require an email address or creation of an account to access it. Teachers also like that TodaysMeet is user friendly and applicable to use with all grade levels and content areas. This video demonstrates the ease of use (TodaysMeet Video).
Instructionally, TodaysMeet is a fantastic tool to use. Here are some of the ways that I’ve observed teachers using it in the classroom:
Group note-taking. Teachers allow students to take notes during a short lecture. Students enter key points from the lecture and often comment on each other’s thoughts and ideas as they relate to the subject at hand. In some instances, teachers assign a classroom “researcher” who posts links to websites that relate to the class lecture. Students were then able to access the notes using the Transcript feature and print them for future use.
K-W-L. This was one of the more creative uses I’ve seen. Before a unit on weather, a 6th grade teacher asked her students to collectively share all of the things they knew about clouds. After the unit, she asked them to revisit the TodaysMeet room to clarify their misunderstandings and add any new things they learned.
Skype. A teacher used TodaysMeet as a tool for students to ask an author questions about his book. The author was able to answer specific student’s questions and provide links to websites that helped to answer the questions.
With Educational Videos. One teacher had students watching a Discovery Education video. She stopped the video periodically to ask a question and had students respond to her and to one other student. She also asked questions while the video was running.
As a result of a recent Twitter post I made, I learned that giving students a voice in class was the main reason that TodaysMeet was created. Ira Socol shared with me that he asked his son, James Socol to develop TodaysMeet because he needed a way to get his 80 university students into the conversation, even if they thought English was difficult. I must say, what I enjoy most about TodaysMeet is that it gives a voice to students who are reluctant to ask questions, share thoughts or innovative ideas in front of their peers. Using a technology tool as a means of giving all students in class a voice can help to make any teacher a Digital Rock Star.