My first year of teaching took place in a middle school. Because I was a first-year teacher, I didn't have much understanding of how to acquire the tools that would make my teaching better. As is the case with many first year teachers, survival is the goal. This was an urban middle school where the vast majority of students would have a socioeconomic classification of high-poverty. There were many factors in this experience that I encountered for the first time in my life, however, for the purposes of this entry I will focus on technology resources. In this case, there was a lack of technological resources. I had a very old desktop PC computer and to show videos in my science class, the students would gather around my desk and look at the small cathode ray tube monitor. It was a pretty crude set up. While there were some projectors in the school "available for check out" the person charged with their care was hesitant to give them out because "the bulbs were expensive". I didn't really question this reasoning, because I was new and didn't really understand or have much previous experience with projectors. So, with a 30-year-old overhead projector, a Vis-A-Vis marker, and some blank transparencies, I did my teaching.
My 2nd-3rd years of teaching I moved to an elementary school in another district that served a similar demographic to the one I mentioned before, but the school culture was very different. There was an expectation of sharing and the principal was very supportive of the teachers in providing the tools we needed and wanted to use. I remember asking about a projector and the teacher who's job it was to care for the equipment said "here's one you can keep in your room, also, want an Airliner?" I was thrilled to have access to a projector, but a SMART Airliner would be a neat tool to try. I used it all the time and loved to be able to use technology with my group of third graders. We also had access to a portable SMARTboard on wheels. This was a bit cumbersome to set up, but with a little planning the lessons where it was used were really fun. I also had an E-Mac in my room. The students could work with programs on it as well. We had access to a computer lab to use for activities. I didn't really have much understanding of how to make my instruction too terribly tech-based, but it was there to be used almost any time I wanted. I loved how accommodating the administration was of a desire to use technology with the kids. I wanted to use it more, but there was always a feeling of "I'll spend some time and figure this out when I'm a little less busy". I was taking a fairly hefty graduate course load at the time, which I loved, but did not leave much for "extra time". I thought creating a website would be really cool, but I didn't spend too much time investigating routes to creating one to use with my students.
Then came the move to Utah...From year 4 to year 7 I taught at Brookwood Elementary. It had a very different group of students than the ones I had grown accustomed to and I had access to a modern Mac Laptop and a projector in my classroom. I told the principal that I would like an Airliner and had used one in Oklahoma, she made it happen. I had heard about this thing called an ELMO that the literacy professors told us about that could project a book onto the screen. This is actually called a document camera, but when I asked for one, the principal said "Sure!". They are now issued standard to all teachers, but this hadn't been largely implemented yet. I used it every day and was very happy with the level of technology I had access to in my classroom. I often thought about the contrast with year 1 and how much more exciting teaching was when these tools were used. One year my principal gave me an iPad to use. The iPad 2 had just come out and this was the most cutting edge tool I had ever used. I played with it on my own and began to think of ways to use it with students. Airplay hadn't been released yet, so projection was an issue. I had a dongle that would allow it to be connected to VGA cord that led to the projector- and that's how I used the iPad with the whole class. I found PDF notes and discovered I could use this as a way to walk the students through a worksheet and annotate as I would have with a document camera or with a transparency and Vis-A-Vis marker in the early days of my career. The picture was bigger and sharper and my fingers didn't have to be stained with blue marker. Also, the iPad was the ultimate reward for students in my class. They could use it to practice math with IXL (a program my principal purchased for my students because I asked for it). I could learn about an App and then have it on the iPad in seconds.
I have always loved technology. My dad was a techie guy, so there was always a computer in the house available to play with or use. I feel like it's been something I had in my personal life that until recent years hadn't been as integral to my career as it is today. This year I have a job as an Ed Tech. This means that I get to teach teachers how to make technology an effective tool in their professional arsenal. What makes this job exciting is that I get to spend time learning about the resources I had, in earlier years, said I would research when I had time. I have learned so much this year through this experience and in the endorsement classes. One of my observations is how much we underestimate how quickly students will learn how to use a given tool on the computer or iPad. The managerial concerns are largely combatted by the level of engagement the students experience when using technology to quickly access information and other resources. Some guidance is required, but just as any lesson plan must be prepared in advance, so too should a lesson plan involving the computer or other technology tool. There are so many free resources available via the web that any content can can include these tools.
Finally, Web 2.0- my latest frontier. I felt in the beginning that something like Twitter was created to waste people's time and would not have any educational value. Facebook is a just a way for your friends, who used to be interesting people, provide updates on their children's toilet training. I am happy to say that I have learned to love this and other collaborative web-based tools. Connecting a Personal Learning Network (PLN) allows me to benefit from the work and research of other educators and contribute a little to the dialogue itself. For students, allowing more participation without the feared managerial mele that can come from allowing kids to "participate" freely is one great feature of these tools. I am excited to help students and teachers next year with utilizing access to great resources provided by Pioneer Library, Thinkfinity, Library of Congress, The Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian. Accessing primary source documents, pictures, and artifacts has never been easier.
From a Vis-A-Vis marker to a 1:1 iOS lab, my career has really changed since it's beginnings in the fall of 2005. I am looking forward to participating in the advancements that are sure to come in these next years. It's becoming an increasingly exciting time to be a teacher. There's never a reason to teach the same things in the same way from year to year. The information is out there. It's never been easier to create novel approaches to content. Technology was something used outside of class when I was a student to prepare work for class (papers, projects, etc...). Today it's part of the instruction and classwork. What an authentic way to expose students to the tools they will be using in the lives for which school is supposed to be preparing them!