Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tech Geek or Teaching Geek?

I think it was during a Twitter chat I first made the comment that you don't have to be a tech geek to use technology effectively to support learning in your classroom. I later polished the wording a bit and asserted that "Classrooms don't need tech geeks who can teach, we need teaching geeks who can use tech." Several thought-leaders on Twitter have also shared the quote, like most recently @ToddWhitaker.
The message seemed to resonate with educators. But I also received some push back. What's wrong with being a tech-geek? Can we not aim for both? In the end, are the results any different? It seems there is plenty to discuss regarding approaches of using technology to support learning. So I wanted to address these issues and clarify the thinking behind the quote.

Why teaching geeks?

1. It's more important to get the instructional design right and develop engaging, highly effective learning experiences, with or without tech. Unless the central aim of your curriculum is technology, the tech should support the learning and not the other way around. It's not good practice to find a nifty tech tool and then contrive some way to get it into your lesson, just to wow or impress. That would be akin to using technology like a cool party trick. Not exactly the professional practice that will develop consistent and quality learning for students.

2. Teaching geeks are concerned with more than technology. A teaching geek will do everything possible to increase learning and help all students be successful. They love to learn about teaching, talk about teaching, join with other passionate educators on Twitter, and just be geeky about all things related to their profession. Most of all, they are passionate about student learning. I love to attend EdCamps because the teaching geeks are drawn to these events. Geeks go to Comic-Con. Tech geeks go to CES. Teaching geeks go to EdCamps!

3. You don't have to be a technology genius to use tech in the classroom. Many teachers think they can't use technology to support learning because it's not a strength for them. But even if it's not a strength, every teacher can take small steps to utilize technology for learning. Pick just one digital tool that has the potential to enhance your lessons and learn more about it. Our school is in the first year of 1:1 with Chromebooks, so a tool that nearly all of our teachers wanted to learn is Google Classroom. It was a good place to start because it serves as a hub for classroom stuff and allows for increased sharing and collaboration.

4. Don't wait, start somewhere. For teachers who lack confidence with technology, it's easy to avoid taking steps to learn new ways to use technology. And this is exactly what we don't want our students to do, to shrink back in the face of something that doesn't come easily. I'm very proud of teachers in our building who have stepped out of their comfort zone to learn new methods with technology even though it's not their strongest area. It models the type of growth mindset we want to encourage in students.

5. Turn the technology over to your students. Even if you don't know all the ins and outs of using technology, many of your students do. If you give students choice about how to use technology to support their learning, you can incorporate tech even though you aren't the source of all the tech knowledge. It's actually a great thing when students and teachers can learn from each other.

6. So you're a tech geek? That's great. It can actually be very beneficial to your teaching if you couple your knowledge of technology with an array of other tools that are important to effectiveness in the classroom. How do you build relationships, set expectations, empower learning, and support diverse needs? There are so many factors that contribute to an effective classroom. Technology alone won't result in an excellent classroom experience. But if you can leverage your knowledge of technology to support all the other components of an outstanding classroom, you're a top draft pick for sure!

7. If you are one of the distinguished educators who are both tech geek and teaching geek, you have an obligation to share your knowledge with others. We all want to learn from you.

Question: What makes you a teaching geek or a tech geek? Respond on Twitter or Facebook.

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