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Edtech Resolutions for the New (School) Year

Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA
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As a teacher, it's strange to think of New Year's resolutions in January because we tend to think more about setting goals in time for the new school year, instead. However, in the spirit of the start of the calendar year, I'll ignore the master calendar and talk about my resolutions as if they weren't already in place, or already drifting from my crosshairs.

A resolution is the commitment to do or not to do something. It could be to check the student writing journals more frequently or trying to use Padlet as an exit card once a week. But is that really the kind of resolution we should be attempting?

To answer this question, I sought advice from some edtech folks in my social networks, people I always learn from with every post and tweet.

So, by combining their input and my own reflections, I bring you:

Resolutions for the New Year

1. Forget making mere resolutions, instead, create routines and habits. Edutopia blogger Vicki Davis follows a series of habits of mind that help her follow through with her goals. But she does this far more frequently than once a year. She says, "we are a product of what we do every day, so I plan my ideal week and then work to make that my week."

2. Repeat a broader mantra to embed a deeper philosophy. Mark Wagner, PhD and CEO of EdtechTeam, Inc. says his resolutions are more often mantras that are "meant to be easily accessible and motivating guidance over and over again. Think, 'I will focus on student agency' rather than, 'I will use an open-ended student project each month.' Over time, with repetition, the mantra becomes a bigger and bigger part of everything you do and can guide decisions big and small."

3. Rethink tradition. Alice Keeler is a Google for Education Certified Innovator, EdTech blogger, and author of the book, 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. She says, "Stop referring to the front of the room." It's true; learning should be a 360-degree experience. However, I'm thinking this expands beyond rethinking your space. It's also about rethinking your process, rethinking your rationale, and rethinking your implementation.

4. Be fearless. Try a new strategy or tool. Taking on new things works like a muscle that constantly wants more stimulation once it's triggered. For me, as I began this year, it has been about gamification as a means to create more individualized pacing for my students. Since then, I've also added conquering the monster that is my new 3D printer. So watch out: trying new strategies becomes slightly addictive. Which leads me to this resolution's foil . . .

5. Dump strategies or tools that you aren't connecting with, forgive yourself, and move on. That's right. You have my permission. Have you tried a tool that everyone claims is the next silver bullet only to find that it's simply not your cup-of-tea? You've learned it, used it with students, gotten their feedback, researched ways other teachers are using it better, and you still find its time sucking is unreasonable. You know what you can do? Ditch it, forgive yourself, and move on.

But the key is to adopt something else (see resolution #4.) If I may? When my husband was a young lad, the rule about sports in his family was this: You have to be doing something. If you learn you don't like that sport, you just have to stick with it until the end of the season, and then you can drop it. But you need to tackle another for the next season and try again. So should it be with educational technology.

You have to try. You have to always be doing something. But once you figure out it's not for you -- move on and try something else. Just make sure you gave it a sporting chance and have actually used the tool for a while before forming your opinion. Go out having made a base hit, not having struck out every time you came up to bat. Model flexibility. Model lifelong learning.

6. Aim high and take risks. Keep resetting that bar. Aim for the moon, and be satisfied when you merely break through the atmosphere. The moon will be in your reach in no time. Whether you are a tech-tentative teacher or a tech-savvy one, the fact is that we all goal set. We all reach and stretch and try to improve our practice. Resolutions are meant to be just that: the next bar for which to reach. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.

7. Let the students run the show. Give students choice, ask students for feedback, and allow student ownership.

One Last Word on Edtech Resolutions

When I look back on this list, I can't help but think that it isn't specific to technology. Making resolutions is really about recalibrating our attempts to be the best teachers we can be.

Which brings me to one last resolution brought to you by Mike Lawrence, CEO of Computer Using Educators (CUE), past ISTE board member, and Director of the California Student Media Festival. At the time I wrote this post, The National Educational Technology Plan had just been signed, and Lawrence reminded us of the following: 

8. "Drop the word 'tech.' It's just 'education' now."

What are your educational resolutions for this upcoming year? Please share in the comments section below.

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

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Junaid Mubeen's picture
Junaid Mubeen
Head of Product at Whizz Education

The final point is absolutely spot on. Lest we forget that technology has been around for as long as mankind itself, and EdTech is by no means a new enterprise! Technology must serve our educational goals, not define them. Glad this is reflected in the resolutions.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Thanks, Heather! You're right -- our kids need baby-step-training when it comes to giving them more choice and control over their work. But I also think kids respond better to it than many of us expect. We need to trust them, right? :-)

Heather Wolpert - Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert - Gawron
Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

Laura, I think teachers who are fearful to hand over the reins will be surprised to find how many students not only pick them up, but design better ones than previously existed! AND it makes for "funner" teaching. You can focus on the coaching and the guiding, rather than the feeding of information. It frees you up to enjoy the task of guiding these kids. Happy New Year to all!

YellowChevy's picture

Hi there Heather!

I truly agree with you that we, educators, parents, school and child education advocates need to brush up our levels of understanding with computing to cope up with the current technological advancement trends of the M2 generation of today for our children's future and the world as a whole.

Timothy Tetrault's picture

This is a great exercise- I especially appreciate #5, as it is a good reminder that you are in charge of your edtech experience, and the technology shouldn't be driving (and potentially hindering) your experience. While I work as as administrator at my school, I think I've noticed everyone breathing a sigh of relief once permission is granted to dump any software or process that has run its course, or simply became more work than it was worth. Sometimes it's hard to admit you were charmed by something more robust than you needed (especially if it is trendy), but it's usually liberating after the decision is made.

Tim Tetrault
Executive Assistant to the Head of School

Natalie's picture

Hi Heather,
This is a great way to think about how to add anything new to your teaching! Teachers become so comfortable with the way things are that adding something new, especially technology, seems frightening and overwhelming.
I really like #s 1 and 6. I often find myself making plans to use more technology with my students, but often use the excuse that I can't find the time. This year I have scheduled my class in the computer lab three times a week, so that it can become a routine rather than just an idea. Also, even though I am not very tech savvy, I am forcing myself to allow students to explore with new tools and an online programs. In the past, I would have been too apprehensive to allow them to work with something I didn't completely know. Of course I preview what they are going to work on first, but I've given myself permission to not be the expert.

Heather Wolpert - Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert - Gawron
Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

That's so great! Planning to just use it regularly will demystify the tech for you and make your instructional time more efficient because it won't be such an event every time you enter, you know? Next step: try a regular tool, like padlet, as an exit card. That way, no matter what they are working on or exploring that might be over your head, the last 5 minutes of class can also end on a familiar note. Ask them a different prompt every time you are there and have them enter their quick response onto the padlet link. You'll find it becomes easy for you if you adopt an easy tool that you use regularly, and the kids will come to expect an end-of-class check in process as well. Good luck, and thanks for commenting! -Heather

Natalie's picture

Thanks for the idea! I don't know padlet, but I will look into it. I have a project idea for my class. I want my students to be able to animate the life cycle of an insect. Do you have suggestions about free online animation tools or programs that are easy for younger students to use?

Heather Wolpert - Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert - Gawron
Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

Try looking at Powtoons. It might not be exactly what you're looking for, but it's super fun, kids can learn in quickly, and it will become a tool that students use as a go-to that's different and more engaging than your typical Powerpoint. My own 4th-grader just learned it and presented an argument to his class about why he should be able to bring Pokemon cards to school.

Animoto might be another one, if you're looking for a simple movie-maker-set-t0-music kind of thing. Dump in photos or scanned illuatrations and you're good to go!

Hope this helps! Check back and let us know how it goes!



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