New to the job? You are in good company. Many schools have hired integrators and given them keys, a parking space, and a little guidance as to how to do the job. This page will serve as a starting point to doing your job well. Feel free to add your ideas and questions in the comments at the bottom of the page.
1. Build relationships
You have a unique opportunity to be able to spend time with teachers in a relaxed setting. Make appointments to go into their classrooms and watch them teach. Learn about their strengths and passions- both in and out of the classroom. Learn their teaching styles and talk to them about their comfort levels in trying something new. This information will be essential in helping them use technology.
You may need to begin by reaching out to their personal interests. Do they have a child in college? Teach them to use iChat to stay in contact with them. Are they photographers? Help them use iPhoto. Introduce them to iTunes and the many podcasts that are available for their listening pleasure. Sometimes the best way in is through the open door.
2. Meet with students
Go where the students are. Hang out at a cafeteria table and have lunch with the kids. Ask them how THEY see the laptops being used in the classroom. Then listen without thinking “yeah, but…” They have great ideas.
3. Get rid of assumptions- and don’t listen to gossip.
You will hear via the grapevine that so and so doesn’t use technology…or won’t work with others…and the list goes on. Don’t listen. Learn to look at staff members through a different lens- the one that has students at the center. Teachers that are resistant to using technology are often very protective of their students’ time. They don’t have any time to waste, and often have less time to try to figure out what will work beyond what they already do. Which leads us to…
4. Be prepared
Nothing will turn a teacher away from a technology faster than wasting a class period on something that you think is great…but you haven’t properly vetted. Create a “sandbox” situation where you can actually work through a project from start to finish – and if you are handing out directions to use, be sure that you try these as well to make sure you haven’t forgotten something. Do this IN YOUR BUILDING so you don’t have to worry about blocked sites and network issues. Your access from home may differ from what you can do in school. Include students in your efforts whenever possible.
5. Follow the KISS strategy
KISS stands for “Keep it Simple, Silly.” Not all integration needs to be rocket science. In fact, some of the best integration can work in the background. Subscribing to RSS feeds, having notifications delivered via text message, and using stickies to take notes doesn’t feel “fancy” but can be very effective in improving teaching and learning.
6. Focus on the learning
It’s easy to get excited about the newest, greatest tool. Keep in mind that a tool is only as good as the work it helps us produce. A colorful hammer might be more engaging to use…but it’s still a hammer. Use existing models like SAMR, a model developed by Dr. Reuben Puentedera. This simple to follow model can be a great guide in moving use of technology forward in your community. The goal with this model is to move from the bottom upwards…reaching first for the modification level with an eventual goal of transformation.
(I’d highly recommend watching Dr. Puentadera’s entire presentation: Transformation, Technology and Education)
7. Evaluate success
Knowing what successful integration will look like is very important. What is the goal of using the technology? Is it to gain engagement? Improve differentiation? Aid literacy? How will you measure the effect the technology has on learning? Knowing what a tool is supposed to do, and being able to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool is imperative. It should also be a starting point for developing the integration project. I generally begin the discussion of integrating technology with the question “What do you want your students to know as a result of this project?”
8. Look at obstacles as opportunities
Do teachers have trouble with kids using cell phones during class? Is Facebook a distraction? Turn your enemies into your friends. If this is what kids want to use, find ways to let them- for classroom use. There are social networking sites that can be used in school and controlled by the teacher. Research ways others have used these popular tools and see if they will work for you. Work closely with your IT team to see how you can make your ideas work given your network parameters.
9. Join a professional community
There are many, many blogs and communities out there that will help you do your job. These professional communities are made up of educators like you willing to engage in conversations. You can post questions and add suggestions. They have a WEALTH of good information. Here are three of my favorites:
Tech 4 Maine
Edutim – Tim Hart’s Blog
10. Forgive yourself
Not everything you do will be a success. How you handle your failures will set an important tone with teachers. Understanding that mistakes are part of learning, and using those mistakes to create better work is what we expect from our students- why would we expect less from ourselves? When teachers see you as human, they relate better to you. Laugh and learn!