The tech recommendations that we lookat in this post are not broad-stroke, life-changing recommendations that will make immediate and overt differences in your classroom practice. They will be nuanced, slow, gradual and long-term activities that take time to display a noticeable difference. But you will observe the difference some of them make over time, and realise that the difference they have made is considerable.
Think of it like weight loss. We might love the quick fix, 10 minute weight loss that drops us a clothing size. But does it make a long-lasting difference? The long-term gains is what I’m looking at here: making small changes that might not change too much on your day one, but come day one hundred the changes will be entrenched; habit-formed and growth will definitely be on the way!
Develop Your Search Skills
This is something that we probably think we’re quite good at…but are you really?
I’m being serious here – think about your search skills. How easily do you find what you are looking for? Are you capable of rephrasing and refining your searches to produce a more focused set of search results? As a clarification here, if you are clicking on a number of search results to find what you are lokking for, then your search isn’t focused enough and it is these skills I’m talking about improving.
Do you know how search works? The steps involved and how search engines like Google and Bing categorise the internet?
I’ve asked a lot of questions here, but it’s important that you are able to answer them to a deeper level. I’m referring more to how search is structured. By understanding how search is structured, you can then use this knowledge to find what you are searching for. Use sites like Wolfram Alpha to learn how search is structured and use these skills to better complete learning preparation tasks.
For the most popular search engine, you can find out how they approach search here. The main aim is to make search more accessible, but the core skills of knowing how to search will help you to find what you’re looking for almost immediately.
Create an Email System That Works for You
Here we’re talking about setting up folders that you can divert certain emails into particular areas. My school uses Google Classroom and as Subject Leader, I am enrolled in all Digital Technology classes across the school so that we can still post work if covering a staff absence and to post any relevant announcements (I don’t have time for any more than that to be honest). This creates a huge wave of email notifications from Google Classroom though, and to minimise the level of disruption to my inbox, I have set up a GC folder. All emails go into that folder and I can check it each day at a particular time to make sure I haven’t missed anything important. I also coach hockey in my school, so of a lesser general importance, I receive emails from Sportplan.net that help me when planning hockey coaching sessions. This also has its own folder.
The importance to this is that it stops my inbox from being overwhelmed and allows me to see and respond to the emails that are important.
This point doesn’t necessarily fall under the tech recommendations umbrella, but I suppose if we frame it in a blog, then that will count! Writing is a phenomenal tool that is perhaps a little under-valued. Writing about your topic will help you to understand it better and as a result, give you greater insight into explaining it better to your classes. This is one thing I have found in writing on this platform. My knowledge in educational technology and how it can be applied in the classroom has improved my knowledge of the subject, and made me a better teacher.
Regardless of the subject it will do the same for you.
As a beginning teacher, writing about your topic will help you to develop resources, particularly if you are post-primary focused. Better resources from better writing will be of benefit to your pupils. The whole process is like a series of dominoes. One will impact the next, which will impact the next and so on.
It’s up to you which platform you choose to write on – it doesn’t need to be an online platform, it could just as easily be pen and paper. But the important thing here is that you write about your teaching, learning, reflections upon your teaching and what.
By starting this process early in your career, it will help develop your own thinking and reflection upon your subject area. Even writing about your understanding of teaching, what works, what hasn’t worked and why will improve your understanding of education – as well as the already glossed over point that you will understand what works and what doesn’t.
These tech recommendations are exactly that – recommendations. I’ve found that they are helpful tools to helping me to focus on what is important in teaching – teaching your pupils!
As recommendations, they will not directly make you into a better teacher overnight, but their impact will be of benefit in ways that help you to focus on your job, but also learn how to become a better teacher. I remember from teacher training that the phrase ‘reflective teaching’ was used so much that it last its power and impact. But now, nearly two decades later, I’ve found that it is a surefire way to improve as a teacher. Writing helps, as it enables me to look back over what worked and what didn’t work. Analysing both of those outcomes allows me to make positive changes in how I deliver lessons with all my classes. The tech recommendations won’t light up the world, neither will they lead to burnout, they’ll just help you to continue burning brightly.
Sorry if that was a bit cheesy, but I think the point holds well.