Updated: Feb 19, 2021
School holidays have arrived (phew!) and what a year it has been! I hate to be the one to say it but the holidays will pass all too quickly and before you know it the new school year will be here. If you have made any kind of commitment to increasing your digital technology in the classroom next year, and let's face it the new curriculum means that we have to, here are some steps you can take to start the year with the right digital mindset.
1. Rest and enjoy your holiday!
There is no point in trying to learn new things when your brain is mush. Flat batteries don't make anything work, you need a break to recharge, and a good one at that. The summer holiday is a time for taking time for yourself, getting some vitamin D out in the sunshine, sleeping in, reacquainting yourself with your family and maybe even reading something just for fun. Rest and rejuvenate, you can't give to others when you haven't given time to yourself. You need a good month off - it takes a week to wind down, two weeks of proper holiday and a week finishing your holiday but starting to think about work again.
2. What interests you?
Start or continue your digital journey with something that actually interests you. If coding scares the life out of you then don't go there at this time. What about eBooks, photography or digital art? Choose something that you would enjoy and have a play around. Look for some apps that may help you have a go at something new. In my next newsletter I'll list some great apps that have been proven to be very successful in the classroom. Every time you use a new app or website it increases your knowledge and skills that can be transferred to something else later.
3. Reflect on any issues you may have had with your students' learning over the past year.
There is the obvious online learning due to Covid-19 but what other difficulties did your children have? Did you have a child with amazing ideas that couldn't get it down on paper because of spelling issues? Were there a group of kids constantly off task and interrupting others? Did you expect your students to have digital knowledge and found that they didn't have the basics? Were your iPads or Chromebooks always flat? Did you share enough work with parents, and/or communicate with them enough? You may find a pattern emerging or you may just have one issue that really held up learning or communicating in the classroom. Choose one or two of these issues to work on this year, and the earlier in the year you tackle the issues the better your year will continue to be.
4. Can you combine your own interests with one of these issues?
Once you have had a holiday, then it's time to start thinking about teaching again. You've thought about any issues you had this past year and are ready to tackle one (or two). Again, what interests you? You are much more likely to stick with something that you don't find too overwhelming, and dare I say it - even fun. If you want to work on getting children's ideas flowing then ebooks are a great way to do this because it's easy to add voice overs to increase depth in a story. If you want to increase communication with families then look at Seesaw or Class Dojo. Learn how to change focus on iPad photos and use some photography rules to make your photos more interesting. Pic Collage is a great easy app for presenting photos and digital art, and if you do want to tackle coding (the skills will really make a massive difference to your students) then look at ScratchJr.
5. Spend your time wisely
Don't look at all the 'I'm a cutesy teacher on class dojo' posts online, in my opinion some teachers spend way too long making things look pretty. When I was at teacher's college many moons ago I had a tutor who said "Every time you are doing something, think 'Is this helping with the children's learning?' and if it isn't then don't worry about it." We spend way too much of our own time making things look super pretty and it doesn't impact on the children's learning what so ever - and it ends up making us exhausted and burned out. I'm not advocating a dull lifeless classroom but this has kept me focused on the important things to spend my time on. Spend your time learning the app or program, get the basics done so that you are ready for the school year. For example, if you are choosing Seesaw or Class Dojo then spend your time learning how to add your class and communicate with parents, how to access the library of activities that you can digitally assign to your students. If you have two devices then include yourself as a student on one of them so that you can see the different layout of the student's view. If you end up focusing on making your banner pretty then that is your call, but that's not going to help you troubleshoot in the classroom.
At the end of these five things you may have an idea on how you could do things a little differently in the classroom. Remember, work smarter not harder. Digital devices are here to be used as tools to make our life easier in the long run (as well as increasing student's learning of course). If you are at the stage of "I don't know what I don't know", then ask for help. This is really important. If you keep doing things completely on your own then you can so easily miss important features of an app or device. Ask for some professional development early so that you hit the ground running in 2021.