George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Edtech Resolutions for the New (School) Year

As teachers using technology, what kind of New Year's resolution should we be attempting? Here's some edtech advice from some folks worth listening to. 
January 4, 2016
Two young teenage boys are sitting in foldable chairs in class. One has a laptop on his lap that they're both looking at.
Photo credit: Jose Kevo via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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?

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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.