As we approach conference season with WAFLT and ACTFL just around the corner, many of us are getting excited for the new ideas, the networking, the recharge to our batteries. In addition to teaching language classes, for the past 25 years I have spent many hours in classrooms observing others and working one on one as well as in workshops and teaching classes on technology integration. The common questions that I have heard, believe it or not, really haven’t changed.
- What tool should I use for…?
- What’s the “best practice” for using … with my students?
- Should I use…?
- How do I use…?
- How should I assess my students’ use of…?
Interestingly enough the answer to these questions is the same and also hasn’t changed. “It depends…”
- Pedagogy ALWAYS comes first.
- Rather than asking, what’s the best tool for…, ask what should my students be able to do? Then ask, what are the steps to make that happen?
- Do I need to assign technology to make that happen or can I make suggestions and let my students choose?
In choosing what to use while teaching ask:
- Will using technology make this step in the process more effective? How?
- Will I know more about what my students can do?
- Will my students be more aware of what they know and what they need to work on?
Here are a couple of rules of thumb as you enter conference season and experience technology recommendations in sessions you attend:
- Am I just looking at bells and whistles or is a learning goal being addressed?
- What is the added value?
- Are all students able to participate equally or are some students at a disadvantage due to learning differences or other issues of accessibility? What can I change to make it accessible to all?
- Where does this idea fit in my comfort zone? What changes would I need to make for me and my environment?
Looking a little more closely at that last bullet. You will need to step out of your comfort zone. You need to feel a little uncomfortable. That is the only way to learn and grow as a teaching professional. If the idea/activity/task fails, that is just good information on your journey to growing. You don’t need to go wildly outside of what you are comfortable with as doing so would be setting yourself and your students up for frustration. Take it in small steps. Only change what feels like it could use some new energy. Whether that new idea/activity/task integrates new technology or no technology it’s more important that it is done intentionally and with a pedagogical purpose that meets the learning goals you and your students have.
Go forth, learn, get recharged, then reflect back on that experience and make intentional purposeful adjustments to reenergize your learning environment. There is more than one way and only you will be able to decide what is the best way for you taking into account all the factors in your scenario.