Guest Post by: Charmayne Polen
Two years ago I had not even touched an iPad, let alone knew how to use one. Yet, when my school decided to pilot an iPad program and asked for teacher volunteers to write proposals explaining how we would use them in our classroom, my hand shot up and I practically jumped up and down yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”. After my initial excitement at the prospect of having a cart of iPads in my classroom wore off, I realized I had a major challenge ahead: I did not own an iPad and once I did, I had to figure out how I would really use it in my classroom. So, I asked to borrow one from the school and proceeded to stay up way too late each night acclimating myself to it and figuring out which apps would work best within my Language Arts curriculum. I then stumbled through writing the proposal, really having little clue as to what I was doing; I was simply determined to have those iPads in my room because I knew they would transform my teaching and my students’ learning if used well. After turning in my proposal, I breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the decision to be made. Early that summer, I received an email saying I was one of six teachers picked to pilot the iPads in my room the following school year…then the panic set in: How would I do this? I really had to alter the way I taught as well as my entire pedagogical process. So much for the summer of leisure I had imagined-instead it turned into a summer of planning and reflecting!
Today I have two years of teaching with the iPads under my belt and have learned so much. Have I made mistakes? Yes-absolutely. Are there lessons I would like to do-over if I had a chance? Yes-absolutely. But there are so many positive experiences in having this type of technology in a classroom, that these experiences have truly overshadowed the negative ones. After reflecting on the last two years of learning and teaching while fully integrating technology, here are the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:
Teachers are not experts in technology. Students love when teachers ask for their help, and by being open to students’ input and help when using technology, this creates a sense of community within the classroom as well as builds rapport with the kids.
Students are not experts in technology. Teachers have to teach many of the students how to use iPads and technology for productivity, not simply for entertainment. People look at me oddly when I say this, but for digital ‘natives’, some of the students are not as tech-savvy as we might first believe. Many of the students’ experience with technology is limited to texting, Googling, Facebook and Twitter; it’s a completely foreign concept for some to think differently about it. Also, teaching in a low-income community, many students don’t have access to this type of technology, let alone Internet access. I keep this in mind when introducing new technological concepts and never assume students understand everything technological because they are kids and have grown up with it!
Having technology helps to foster students’ curiosity and intrinsic motivation to learn. It’s been amazing to be in the middle of a discussion when students will look up a concept on the iPad and offer more to the conversation because of their newfound knowledge.That instant access to knowledge has directed students’ learning and made them curious, independent and intrinsic learners, truly epitomizing student-centered classrooms and engaged learners.
Again, I’m still learning and tweaking lessons each day I teach, but using technology has changed the way I approach my classroom each day. I’ve seen it give students a sense of independence and confidence as they conquer ‘technology challenges’ and I truly feel they are better prepared as we send them out into this technological world; they at least have a foundation and a base knowledge from which to move forward. That, to me, is transformative education!
Bio: Charmayne Polen is a Nationally Board Certified English Language Arts Teacher. She currently teaches English at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Ohio and is an adjunct at Hiram College. She is a lover of all things “tech” in the classroom and is a believer in the importance of ongoing professional development for teachers to continue to grow and improve as educators. Follow her at @charmaynepolen on Twitter or her blog at http://polensplace.wordpress.com/