My second post for Edueto Magazine: Edueto
So you have been working on integrating more technology in your classroom. Maybe you’ve added a social messaging tool such as Celly or Remind or even Class Messenger, there are a lot of great options out there. I can imagine it took some getting used to at first and maybe you even tried using it for only one purpose. To send a reminder, as a way for students to ask you those late night questions or some other need that you had was in your classroom. I hope that if you chose to add a messaging tool in your classroom, you now feel comfortable with it and that it has brought about the positive changes that it has brought about in my own classroom.
Did you take another step and begin using a Learning Management System? Even though I use Edmodo, which gains many new users every day and is not something solely used for teachers and their students, but can be used to engage other educators and join a variety of professional communities. Connecting this way is important for our growth as educators and for building our personal and professional learning networks. But it’s okay if you have not yet gotten to that next step, integrating technology is an ongoing process and it is best done in phases, working towards building your comfort level and learning how to use it effectively. But if you have taken both of these actions, you’re probably ready for some new challenge.
So again I ask you, what is it that would make a difference in your classroom? What do you think that you possibly are not providing or that your students are not giving back? The answer to this question could be the same, but sometimes it can be very different so it comes down to what your individual needs are. I can only tell you from my experience how I progressed on my path of integrating technology, and it did not happen overnight. Although when I speak about the tools that are used to my classroom or I give presentations at conferences or participate in Twitter chats, I talk about a lot of tools that are available but by no means should one infer that I use them with my students every day, all the time. Using technology completely and trying too much at once would impede real learning in the classroom and is much more effective when integrated into units.
Deciding to integrate more technology grew from my curiosity in ways to flip the classroom, so that I had more time to interact with the students and engage them more in the discussion rather than spend valuable class time watching videos or listening to audio activities or sometimes even a teaching a new concept.
So through my research for the answer to this question, led me to a great tool called Blendspace. You might wonder what it is and how it’s different than other tools like it? You may have used or at least heard of tools like Livebinder and Symbaloo, which many people are familiar with and perhaps even use on a regular basis with their students. But when I found Blendspace and started using it, it was simply a way to avoid the struggle the students had typing in such long URL addresses, which wasn’t an easy task because those great URL shorteners were not around yet. I used Blendspace to create lessons for each chapter in Spanish class. Students enrolled in their respective classes, had access to shared lessons and I let them have the time to explore the different resources I had put into the lessons. Some of the resources were from my list of favorites and others were ones that I quickly found by using the different tools available through Blendspace for quickly creating a lesson.
Over the years my uses for this have evolved and I will tell you more about that later but for right now my main purpose is to tell you that sometimes it’s beneficial to have a tool like this to curate your materials both for your students and for yourself. I recently presented a 1in3 session at ISTE in Philadelphia and Blendspace is gaining in popularity. It is an app available in Edmodo, so if you’re looking for a package deal you may decide to choose the same tools that I did. But again, while what I’m telling you may sound like great ideas that seem to be applicable to your personal experience, I still recommend trying these things out first. Don’t hesitate, create an account, check out the examples that are available and see what other people are using it for. Think about your initial question, and decide if this tool is helping to solve it and providing opportunities. If you come up with mostly an affirmative answer then by all means continue working with the tool until you are a bit more comfortable. And even better, engage the students in this discovery process, encourage them to seek answers and try new things. It’s all about taking risks and learning, and with technology the learning possibilities are limitless. We learn from each other and even though we have the title as teacher, we don’t always have to be it.
I hope that your answers are coming to you and that you are feeling more comfortable with some of the technology you are using in your classroom. It just takes that first step, some discovery, curiosity and patience. Take a chance and see what benefits your classroom will receive from something new like Blendspace. I will share some ideas with you but first, see what you can learn on your own. Or even have your students figure it out with you.
I’d love to hear from you so feel free to contact me with questions at any time. And in closing, don’t stop questioning. Be curious. Be reflective and be active. Think of goals to enhance meaning and growth. Thank you