Told a student I’d make a TikTok if he did his work. ##teachers ##teacherlife ##teachersoftiktok ##onlinelearning ##studentsbelike ##mathteacher

♬ original sound – misterflattery

I know, I know — this is a snarky TikTok, but it did give me a chuckle. I call myself a ‘digital pioneer’ — been steeped in tech and all its magic since the 1990s, and my husband even longer than that: I mention this because I realized when students tried to use technology to learn, create, complete assignments, etc., it’s not easy for them: just because they often know how to use VPNs and play games on the laptops, open multiple screens and tab out quickly when you’re checking in on them doesn’t mean they instinctively know how to use UX/UI designed by mostly, well, engineers, to turn in their work.

Many teachers don’t know how to use technology well. And before you imagine some 60-something woman fumbling over her Outlook settings and Reply-Alls, I’ve known many teachers in their 20s who admit to not liking or using technology. And when I say “well” I mean to have some sense of how technology is designed (user interface/user experience) to promote smooth communication experiences. Because what is school for anyway, if not to help us become clear communicators and thinkers? There is no end point to this – we are never going to be perfectly clear–we’re designed to be muddy, seeking clarity and love. Our language acquisition is the language of being social and learning. If we’re a parent, we remember our children’s first words that aren’t related to mom and da: (“seaplane” and “moon”).

Teaching students how to use a LMS (learning management system) such as Google Classrooms or my personal favorite, Canvas, takes time. But more importantly, it takes time for teachers to learn how to use these systems well. I have often said we expect children, elementary to secondary, to think like little business people, when really we should be teaching how to think like creators and designers. Tech is a tool: it serves the needs of the creator.

One thing I’ve heard repeatedly from teachers after the school closures due to COVID19 is this attempt to maintain the curriculum in its current state, just put it ‘online.’ Teachers will get defensive when it’s suggested that they pare it down now. But trust me: please–take whatever you’re asking your students to do and divide it by half, and if you’re still at eight things, get it down to four at the most. And even that might be too much.

As we’re all daydreaming and reimagining schools and our society, it might be helpful to look to the past few years and educational technology decisions and focus a mission on what worked and what didn’t. No one can sit in a Google Meeting or Zoom all day. Perhaps we just need a ‘report back’ idea: provide an experience for students and allow them the means to report back what they learned. I’m thinking a lot about things I always thought a lot about: how to balance direct instruction with richer, creative projects? The direct instruction piece (grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence construction, reading literacy and comprehension, etc.) enables the richer projects to happen. But I also know it’s not a flat, forward path: language and communication circles, spirals, flexes and weaves.

Apologies for my abstract-randomness: let me talk to my inner concrete-sequential: plan it out before you tackle a tech project. Think about what your goal is, and the old axiom, KISS (keep it simple, stupid) applies.

Some resources to help:

Cult of Pedagogy

And– even me. I’m happy to help with a project or find a resource to help you with yours.