Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Seven ways to become a more connected educator

Are you constantly on the lookout for new ways to integrate technology in your classroom(s)?

Or are you hoping to become a more effective, digitally-focused educator?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of the above questions then this will certainly be of interest. We’ve trailed through several key research reports, endless numbers of advisory blogs and taken on board the suggestions of our educational partners to bring you the must-know habits that make for an effective and connected teacher.

Whether you’ve got extensive experience in delivering e-learning initiatives or are just getting to grips with the growing digitalisation of teaching and learning, this set of tips will help you.

Before we get started, one key mantra to uphold when becoming a connected educator is to start with the ‘why?’. Technology has always wowed and excited consumers, but we must resist the urge to adopt and deploy technology immediately. Like any fresh initiative, question why a suite of new devices or a new software tool should warrant your investment and establish what role it will take in the classroom.

Google Glass
Becoming an effective educator also involves forward thinking. Not just of the now − visualise what your classroom(s) will be like in one, two, even five years from now. iPad learning, for example, is extremely current, taking centre stage at many of the education and innovation road shows and exhibitions but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best option for your school and your vision. What if wearable technology, such as smart watches or Google Glass replaces the need for hand-held devices?

This is an extreme example and an unlikely one at that; anticipating tech trends is an almost impossible feat. But the key point is to ensure that you understand what your organisation needs now, appreciate what it may need in the years to come and critically assess technology against your established objectives and vision.

With that said, here are our seven most recognised characteristics of a connected educator:

1. They always ask ‘why’


Technology is new and sometimes novel; it can have a short shelf life or impact our lives forever. Yet all successful digital educators will tell you that ‘technology for technology’s  sake’ is dangerous. There must be a clear and substantive reason to invest and use it within the classroom. To save time, lower costs, raise engagement or improve lesson delivery, effective educators always start off with the ‘why?’.

2. Thinking big


We can’t be sure of what’s coming next − technology is constantly changing and evolving. Our needs as learners and consumers are changing. So, we must remain adaptive and open to the prospect of ongoing change.

3. Embracing change


Most teaching professionals using technology in their classroom are open to the idea of change. Many innovate and actively instigate it in fact, to develop new pedagogies and classroom best-practices. Change, therefore, is an inevitability and without an open and adaptive team of teachers it is difficult to fully integrate new technology successfully.

4. Knowledge is power – so share it 


Technology has advanced aggressively in the past five years with a stream of new communication tools making sharing even easier. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and even new web tools such as SnapChat and Vine, are allowing us to talk online face-to-face, interact with global communities and expand our private networks without leaving our desks.

As Isaac Newton famously quoted ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ This has been a metaphor for many who have discovered new practices and strategies by building on the inventions and discoveries of others. A notion that perfectly suits those that adopt and embrace new technologies. Therefore, by sharing our experiences, our ideas, opinions and comments we can develop new teaching strategies and techniques.

Sharing is key to the progression of knowledge and without the internet and the onset of new sharing tools that have been brought about by the use of the internet we would not be where we are today.

5. Inclusion and participation


On far too many occasions have I heard from heads of department and subject teachers that a new software tool or set of devices has been purchased by senior management without consulting those that will actually be using it on a day-to-day basis.

Implementing new technologies predominantly fails for this reason because there is no buy-in from the end users, teachers, students or even parents. Without involving these stakeholders in the planning stage, without allowing them to trial the new kit and giving them the opportunity to vent their concerns, they are more likely to resist. Change is a sensitive issue, it means that new practices will need to be adopted; often, new lesson plans will need to be created – frequently without adequate training and support.
By communicating and involving teachers in the early stages, school leaders or ICT coordinators are more likely to gain cooperation and in most cases tailor the new change programme to the particular needs of their school, staff and students. In doing so, teachers appreciate why new technologies are necessary and in turn can truly buy-in to the impact that they will have on learning outcomes for students.

6. Thinking two steps ahead


Once you’ve established why and what, you’ll then need to establish how new technology will be implemented. How will it be presented to staff, how will it be implemented in the classroom? Often delivered at a professional development meeting, this is a formal opportunity to relieve concerns and convince those staff members that have historically opposed or resisted change.

An effective digital educator will be prepared, able to communicate the benefits clearly, answer difficult questions and inbue a sense of confidence in the use of new technologies. Examples are generally a favoured tool to use to demonstrate and substantiate effectiveness and impact.

7. Taking a sense of pride and care


Most educators take pride in their work and are concerned if a positive is not achieved. Highly effective educators lose sleep over the excitement of a new lesson design, think about alternative teaching techniques on their days off and constantly read, review and improve their knowledge. Those that are most effective don’t just care but actively care: they welcome change, not just because it reduces costs or makes their working lives easier but because it helps them create a greater impact for the learning outcomes of their students.

As I mentioned, these are seven recognised habits of effective, connected educators – what are yours? Share them below and continue the conversation.


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