I’m often asked for advice on how to get started with using 21st century tools to enhance teaching and learning. The mistake some people make is believing educators instantly need to become producers of websites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks etc. Most educators need to become comfortable and familiar as participants in these environments before they can feel successful as creators in these areas. To follow are ideas that educators who want to get started with educating innovatively can explore.
10 Ideas to Begin Educating Innovatively
To get started on your road to success, you need a laptop, projector, and internet access. As an innovative educator, I could not survive or teach effectively without these three things. If my school could not provide these basic pedagogical tools, I would invest in them myself, apply for a grant or write to http://www.donorschoose.org/. Next, I recommend investing in low cost laptop carts so students also have devices. For information on these options read Low Cost Computing Options That Will Enable More Educators to Consider 1-to-1 Environments and Bridging The Digital Divide in NYC. If you begin on the path to creating a 21st Century environment for students and educators, you will also want to consider Starting a Student Support Team in Your School.
2. Innovation Integration Plan
The use of 21st century tools must be planned for and integrated into the day to day work of teachers and their students. Channel 13 has put together an Action Plan Template and gives advice for Writing an Innovation Plan that will help schools do just that. To help with planning across subjects in each curricular area consider using the Content Area Innovative Integration Plan Template which supports teachers in looking at what they are currently teaching, reviewing the standards, and then determining how what they can teach more innovatively.
You can’t plan without knowledge of the technology standards and ideas for infusing technology into the curriculum. Become familiar with ISTE's Educational Technology Standards which serve as guides for teachers, students and administrators to help them focus on the skills and expertise needed to teach, learn, and lead more effectively in an ever changing global community. Teachers can use the standards to facilitate student learning and creativity, create digital work and assessment, model good digital citizenry and pursue personal growth and leadership.
You need ideas about how to enhance the curriculum with technology. A great place to start is with the Information Communication Technology Literacy Maps. In collaboration with several content area organizations, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills developed a series of ICT Literacy Maps illustrating the intersection between Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy and core academic subjects including English, mathematics, science and social studies (civics/government, geography, economics, history). The maps enable educators to gain concrete examples of how ICT Literacy can be integrated into core subjects, while making the teaching and learning of core subjects more relevant to the demands of the 21st century. The download the maps below to get started.
5. Professional Development
Of course, effective integration of technology into the curriculum also takes a well thought out professional development plan and if possible onsite support and coaching. Check with your local school district to determine what offerings they provide for teachers and work to schedule a plan across the year based on the goals of your technology plan. In New York City many schools use this Professional Development Resource for Innovative Educators which is a site that provides professional development materials in the areas of literacy, science, social studies, math, fitness, cyber safety, interactive whiteboard training and more. To see some of the elements for a successful curriculum and professional development rollout read The Power of 21st Century Teaching and Learning Brought to Life at Bronx Middle School CIS 339’s Open House.
6. Social Networking
Join social networks. It is no longer acceptable for innovative educators not to be involved in social networks. It is crucial that educators begin learning how to function in these environments which have tremendous potential for enhancing teaching and learning. Despite what you’re kids or students may have told you, YOU'RE NOT TOO OLD FOR FACEBOOK. Must joins are http://www.facebook.com (for everyone), http://www.classroom20.com (for educators interested in using web 2.0 tools), http://iteachilearn.ning.com (for NYC educators in tech-rich classrooms), and http://www.futureofeducation.com (self explanatory). To get started read Why Every Parent and Teacher Should Learn Facebook.
Find some great education blogs to read. You probably want to find blogs that are written by a teacher for a student audience (Techbrarian), blogs written by educators for other educators (Techomnivore), blogs written by students (Newly Ancient), blogs written by parents (NYC Public School Parents) and blogs written by principals (Practical Theory and Greg's Weblog). Subscribe to these blogs (Google Reader is a great tool for this). Once you get to know them, begin commenting on the blogs. Commenting on blogs is one of the most important things innovative educators can do. Vicki Davis, an excellent, well-respected, and widely read blogger explains how to comment effectively in her post How to comment like a king (or queen!).
Wikis are an amazing and transformative tool for educators and Wikispaces » for teachers let’s you get started for FREE. You can see what educators are doing with wikis over here. You may also want to check out the Wiki Walk-Through from TeachersFirst. Read how the Innovative Educator explains 8 Ways To Use A School Wiki to Increase Communication, Collaboration, and Enrich Instruction or find out how the Cool Cat Teacher Uses wikis to do these 5 things:
1 - Lesson Summaries
2 - Collaboration of Notes
3 - Concept Introduction and Exploratory Projects
4 - Dissemination of Important Classroom Information beyond the Classroom
5 - Individual assessment projects
9. Online Safety
Make sure you are aware of online safety concerns. There are some useful resources at HOW DO I HELP MY CHILD LEARN TO USE THE INTERNET WISELY?. At the NYC DOE we partner with i-Safe, but there are many organizations providing free materials. Visit TIE's Internet Safety for ideas.
It is important to have a method to assess how you’re doing. I’ve listed quite a few at Tools Innovative Educators Can Use to Assess the Infusion of 21st Century Skills Into Instruction. The post includes ideas for assessing teachers, classrooms, and administrators.
These are ten ideas to get innovative educators started with 21st century teaching and learning. Of course, there are an endless number of ideas and technologies to consider. Start with a few of these that make sense to you, and build upon these ideas to accomplish your goals.