How Do Teachers Become Tech Wizards?

I have had many teachers ask me, "How did YOU get to be so good at computers?" Many assume, erroneously, that my husband, who is a true tech genius, does all of my work for me. However, there is way too much tech competition in my household for my husband to do any of my work and then let me take the credit.

I also am not a recent college graduate, and so did not get training from there. (Though I wish I had!) But when I went to college, they were still showing us punch cards and I was taking a programming language called BASIC. I have never used BASIC in the real world, by the way.

I gained my computer knowledge by being the one thing my father warned me about. My father, who was the driving force behind my becoming a teacher used to tell me "beware zealots," and until recently, I thought I had done so, with aplomb. Then, suddenly, I realized, I was a zealot! I also had been identifying other zealots, and asking for their help and guidance.

Yes, I was a technology zealot. I had also been searching out other techies who were willing to go that extra step and learn the new programs and find ways to integrate them into our curriculums. There were not many of us. In the beginning, there were really only two zealots at my school. There were a few teachers who knew technology, but they did not go that extra step to become true zealots. They never became tech wizards.

So, what separates the tech wizards from the other techies? Three things:

  1. being open to new ideas,
  2. having problem solving skills, and
  3. having determination.

(1) To look for new ideas, I do something truly radical. I read industry magazines. Ok, it's not really radical, but I don't see enough other teachers doing it. For example, I read Technology and Learning magazine. I also don't throw away old copies. Right now, I am working on a lesson which will require my students to take digital pictures. In the April 2003 edition of T&L they have a wonderful article on digital photography. The article talks about how to take great pictures, cross-curricular applications and the different types of cameras. I know that when I go back to school, and use the information in the article, everyone will oooooohhh and ahhhhhhhh, and tell me how wonderful I am. (Ok, they might not tell me I am wonderful, but they will ask me where I got my ideas.)

I also use TechLearning's web site a lot! They even have Product Information a page that is all about new products!

Another online Educational Technology Magazine is T.H.E. Journal.

I also check out other people's classrooms and listen to the students talk about the 'cool' stuff they are doing in their other classes.

I also try to attend all the Technology Conferences that I can! There are some cool ones out there! I am a bit partial to FETC (Florida Educational Technology), because I live in Florida.

The best conference I have been to was the NECC Conference and if anyone wants to send me again, I would go in an instant flat! It was great!

I also enjoyed the National School Boards Sponsored T&L Conference.

(2) Problem solving skills seems to be the thing that upsets everyone else at my school. You have to work out many of the problems you might encounter by yourself. Our poor, wonderful tech facilitator is close to burn out, from solving everyone's problems and not getting any credit for doing it! When the other teachers run into a problem they go to her instead of figuring it out for themselves, and then when they encounter the problem again, which they invariably will, they have to run back to the tech facilitator. All this would not happen if teachers would sit down and try to solve the problem themselves first before seeking help.

Again, I have had many comments about how my husband, the tech guru comes and solves my problems. Wrong. I might discuss a problem with him, but then the old rivalry comes out, and I vow to solve it myself. And I usually do!

When I am at school and a problem comes up, I try everything I can to solve it myself. How else can we learn, if we don't attempt the problem solving ourselves? Usually, it involves doing very little…such as turning the computers off and then on again. My, what a concept, YOU CAN TURN OFF A COMPUTER! Other little things I try are checking to see if cords have come loose or gone bad.

Another thing I do is to use the Internet. Use the Internet? YES….

I use the Internet and look up my program or my hardware problem and do a trouble-shooting. I usually can determine the source of my problem from there, and fix it. Or at least I get a better idea of what might be wrong.

When searching the Internet, I will even use 'trouble shoot' as key words in a search engine.

I also do something so terribly unheard of that no other teacher seems to do it. With the program open, I go to help button and click on it. Yes, but shhh, don't tell anyone else, or they might be able to start solving their own problems! I use the index and search buttons of my program's help link to try to trouble-shoot my problem.

Yes, there are times when you must consult the experts. But, there is something wrong if you find yourself at the tech facilitator's office every day, or even once a week.

(3) One of the most important things that will help you mold yourself into a tech wizard is determination. I am determined to do a good job at what ever I attempt to do. Whether it is creating a project or trying to solve a software problem, I work hard.

I also don't look at getting new programs and new hardware as a heavier workload; I look at it as getting new toys. Yes, I have to put in extra time to learn the software, or the hardware, just like anyone else. I am not an amoeba and I can't suddenly understand the manual by osmosis, although wouldn't that be heaven? I read the manual, I do the tutorials and I look on the Internet for extra tutorials. I work until I understand it.

There are many great tutorials online. For every program out there, there are probably 100 different tutorials. I even have a couple of tutorials online that I have written!

I wrote one on using WYSIWYG HTML editors: (A WYSIWYG, or What You See Is What You Get, editor allows you to see on the display screen exactly what will appear when the document is printed or published, as opposed to seeing the code)

My Web Design tutorial helps others use Word, Publisher, or FrontPage to make Web pages.

My Frames by Rosemary Tutorial shows how to incorporate frames into a web page.

So, sometimes it's just a matter of going to the search engine Google and typing in the keywords such as the name of your software and the word tutorial to solve a problem. To guarantee success surround the name of the software with quotes, type AND in all caps, and type "tutorial": thus typing "Front Page" AND "tutorial" will bring up multiple possibilities.

To review: just how did I get to be a tech wizard? I got there by trying to work out stuff myself, being open to new and crazy and wonderful ideas and by working very, very hard. And when I didn't understand something, I found a tutorial, or someone that could help me until I learned it.

And believe me, if I can become a tech wizard, YOU can, too!

Email: Rosemary Shaw