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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Embracing Continuous Improvement with EdTech

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

If you are a connected, networked educator (or even if you're not), it's easy to begin comparing yourself to all those online examples of excellence in ed tech. "Look at the way so-and-so is using blogging with his or her second graders!" or "I love how this person uses Skype to bring experts into their classroom!"

It's easy to be humbled by what you "see" others doing in your virtual network. Sometimes it's humbling to see what your colleagues are doing in their own classrooms in your school!

What's important to remember is that your colleagues did not get there overnight. What's also important to remember is that you can only glean so much about a lesson or project through a tweet, a blog post or a quick walk by a classroom door. I can remember thinking that a project I did was really "cool," only to realize that it wasn't necessarily as effective as I would have liked. From the outside, my lesson looked great -- the kids were content creators, their work was shared with the world and they were using a digital tool of some kind -- but my project objective or outcome was fuzzy, or the process to get there left much to be desired.

Most people who successfully integrate technology into their classrooms on a daily basis have not always had success. Their road to successful lessons has been plagued by tech failures, poor time management, misleading directions or an incomplete understanding of the tool or technology they were putting into their students' hands.

Learn from the Process

Successful, effective and meaningful tech integration is basically a bumpy road, like anything new we try in our practice.

Just as a teacher has to re-think his or her classroom structure to incorporate a new element such as guided reading or math manipulatives, a teacher trying to incorporate and truly integrate technology in the classroom must reflect, fail and try again.

Some things I keep in mind:

  • Be transparent: It's OK to say, "I'm trying something new -- I'm not sure if it's going to work out the way I expect." Tell your students, "We're in this adventure together."
  • Learn from failure: We all know the old bicycle metaphor, and we use it with our students. Sometimes picking the bike back up and trying again is a powerful experience.
  • Revise: Analyze and rethink your failure -- tweak your lesson, talk to your students, talk to your peers, seek out advice.
  • Reteach: If it didn't work the first time, try a different approach.
  • Avoid insanity: We all know Einstein's famous adage about insanity.

When your attempts at integrating technology into your classroom seem feeble compared to those around you, don't despair. Use those people you admire as resources to tap. Learn from your own experiences, and accept failure. Be proud of the little things and celebrate them with your students. I have miles to go before I become the teacher I want to be, and I know I'll need some sturdy boots and some great companions along the way.

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