As I sit here patiently waiting for the birth of my daughter in less than 3 months, I all too often picture her emerging from the womb with an iPad, securely in her grip, loaded with various instructional resources ready to guide me for the next 18 or so years of her life. While I have come to realize this will not be the case, it has made me think about the use and implementation of technology in the earliest of classrooms.
In my opinion, technology is often put into teacher’s classrooms lacking an instruction manual. We lose focus on the “why” it will be beneficial to teachers and children, and more importantly, we neglect to focus on how parents can benefit
Technology done well provides a closer connection between classroom and home. Emphasis on the “done well.” Technology must be purposeful. In the past (some will argue still today), technology was not implemented with a purpose in mind or a focus to utilize its full potential. Many times, it was used as a justification, a competitive advantage, or an investment unknown to the teacher, as a way to prove students were being prepared for the 21st century. Before we had technology-based solutions that extended beyond the classroom, the only way to share student progress was through face-to-face parent teacher conferences, regular progress reports, report cards, or maybe even phone calls. By the time that data was shared, many times it was too late to intervene, too late to make a change, or maybe even too late to make a difference. Today, we now understand that we must be better in our approach.
So, how do we build a stronger home connection via technology? While we can’t give every parent an iPad with instructions, we can provide resources to help teachers instruct and support what their children are learning at school. Before we can build that bridge between school to home, we, as teachers, need to understand the power of the technology that has been integrated in our classroom environments. To do this, we must first invest in the most important resource in our classrooms, which is ourselves. Taking the time to focus on Professional Development provided during the first phase of implementation can build a strong foundation for lasting success. Learning the ins and outs of any new solution that will have an impact in the classroom is a vital first step and training goes beyond learning which buttons to push and what drop downs to select. Professional Development must be looked upon not only to solve the immediate need in front of you, but it must also be thought of as the solution to the next biggest problem that lies ahead. As teachers, we must become proficient with the technology and seek for ways to implement it deeper into our teachings. Teachers can begin to utilize online resources to better communicate with parents how their child is progressing in the classroom. This could come in the form of sharing real time academic data, behavioral data, or providing activities in which parents can engage with their children at home. Online resources can also serve as a means for the first line of defense when it comes to getting support needed and having questions answered.
“It is not about the technology; it’s about sharing knowledge and information. Communicating efficiently, building learning communities and creating a culture of professionalism in schools. These are the key responsibilities of all educational leaders”
The true power of technology is not in the hardware or software that you have invested in, it is in the ongoing help and support provided by a community that can be most beneficial to each and every user. Online environments are for all users to come together, find solutions to problems and connect with like-minded individuals to provide best practices. Although teachers are surrounded by children daily, teaching can be a very isolated profession. By engaging in online communities, we can break out of the siloed walls of our individual classrooms and communicate with individuals across the nation. Sharing ideas, best practices of teaching and ways to bring school and home closer together through online communities allow teachers to hone their craft and share their expertise.
They say that practice makes perfect – but in reality – practices makes permanent. When teachers practice utilizing technology in their classroom in a purposeful way, they can permanently make a difference in the lives of the children and parents in their community.
“Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.”
As we embark on an educational journey with the next generation of teachers, children and parents, it will be more important than ever to make sure we are meeting all of our key stakeholders where they are now and where they need to be for the future. Purposeful technology solutions implemented at the right time, in the right place and with the right intention will help us meet this ultimate goal.