Connecting Through Tech: What’s Holding You Back?

Technology is great. I’m only a fan of it, though, when I actually know how to use it to make life better or cooler.  A few years ago, I had been out of the classroom for three whole years and when I came back, technology was not my friend. I felt like it had advanced at least ten years ahead in my short absence.  I also felt pretty old for a young person.

BUT, the district I teach in offers a lot of professional developement.  My principal loves technology and since we get something new every month, I decided I should go to some classes after school. Through these training sessions,  I joined Twitter, found Nearpod, and ClassDojo.  I heard something about Skype for Educators, but that felt too out of my league.  So I dove into Twitter, started using Nearpod, and immediately fell in love with ClassDojo.  I loved these programs because they were so user friendly and you couldn’t break it.  The more I used technology, the more comfortable I became, and I learned that  you can’t break much.

Flocabulary was also very user-friendly and soooo fun.  Who doesn’t like to sing, rap, dance, and learn, right? I would tweet about all of these programs and the companies would tweet back.  I felt like a rockstar!  So cool!  But even more cool, I started following all these other educators who were learning or leading, just like me.  My confidence in technology grew, and my Professional Learning Network (PLN) blew up!  All the sudden, I had hundreds of people to bounce ideas off of and I could even help others…technology is cool when it connects and helps others, and it’s worth the moments of discomfort before finding my way.

I think it’s funny when my colleagues tell me I’m tech-savvy.  I still feel behind in a lot of ways.  However, if I know there is a program that is going to help my students love learning, I will fight my fear and dive in.

So this past week, I gave Skype Classroom a try.  It really wasn’t hard. It was awkward and there were some funky moments of tech freezing, but mostly my students loved it.  Thursday, three educators from Miami, Florida read my kids stories focusing on social emotional learning, and Friday, a children’s author read us one of her books.  Jo Mach of Finding My Way Books writes non-fiction books about children with different disabilties and how they are winning in life.  She is an adovcate for inclusivity and after years of being an occupational therapist, she is using these real-life stories and characters to show children that we really can be and do what we want in life.  These learning moments gave my students an opportunity to be connected gloabablly, practice listening, practice talking with others, and learn even more how to relate with different kinds of people.

Something important about learning anything new is reflecting on what we just did.  Giving students time to let it cement in their brains.  So we drew and wrote about what we learned.  I thought Skype Classroom was too hard to implement a few years ago and I thought it would be too hard for my first graders to write and reflect on the stories they listened to.  BUT I TRIED IT ANYWAY!  The teachable moments were plenty and my students blew me away with the depth of their thinking, even as six and seven year olds.

So my own reflection is this:  keep going.  Keep giving these kids opportunities to connect with others, learn from others, find ways to ariticulate big ideas and important take aways, and please, Melody, teacher, stop with the fear and limitations.  I shared what we are doing with some other teachers, too.  I hope they’ll see how cool it is to connect with other educators in our country (or world) and try something new, too.  Even more importantly, I hope this fuels my students to love to read and talk about what they are reading.  Our kids need us to bring fun into learning, even with the count down to state testing.  ESPECIALLY with the count down to state testing!

So what have you been curious about trying? I dare you to dive in! Remember it’s okay if it’s a bit chaotic at first!  Your students will love you for being brave!

Published by Melody McAllister

Believer, Wife, Mother of 5, Educator, and KC Royals Fanatic! Garland NAACP Educator of the Year 2017 Follow me on Twitter @mjmcalli

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