After finishing a survey on the technology available at my teaching placement, I have come to the conclusion that I am really, really lucky. Firstly, the school I’m at has a lot of technological resources, my favorite being the Chromebooks we have in my classroom. However, all the tech in the world doesn’t help if you don’t have teachers and staff who know how to use it. I don’t necessarily mean knowing how to make a website or format a computer (although these skills are important), but knowing how tech can be a real tool rather than a gimmick used twice a year or for testing practice. From what I’ve seen, it takes a very flexible approach to teaching to really make full use of tech. Days we use the Chromebooks in class often don’t look like any other class I’ve been in. For example, Mr. Brater, my mentor, will have students pull up an online lesson plan on Google Classroom, then have each student work at their own pace, filling out surveys, reading articles or watching videos. Students can get a lot of information in a way which may suit them better than lecture. Of course, this is usually followed up the next day with a more traditional looking lecture/discussion session. He also lets students choose from a list of articles or videos and pick one to view and discuss later. This means that the “smart kids” can’t explain all of the reading and makes the students rely on each other (and do their own work).
Filling out the survey made me realize the physical resources we have, everything from video editing software to computer labs, but more than that, I realized the commitment to tech this school must have. My school is pretty middleclass, and not in the kind of school district which you expect to have a lot of tech (another thing that surprised me while filling out the survey). I know that Mr. Brater and Mr. Hughes had to start a campaign to get the Chromebooks. Before the school year started, we had a PD session which focused on using Google Apps. It was…. dry. However, it’s hard to argue its usefulness. I can really see the value in having the staff on the same page so that calendars, lesson plans, goals, surveys, etc. can all be shared easily. This is why I’m lucky, not just because of the physical resources available here, but also the human resources, people who make an effort to bring tech tools into the school in a meaningful way. And who are patient enough to explain to their peers, students teachers and students how to share that Google Doc about a hundred times. (Thanks Rory!)