What did you do in school today? with Dan Gallagher

Today I am asking our question: “What did you do in school today?” of a friend and colleague of mine. His response will be the first of a series of responses to this same question from many educators. This series will include responses from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments. To write your own response to the question, please visit this page for more information.


A Day in the Life of an Elementary Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology

I don’t have a typical day.  Any given day may have me presenting to a group of teachers, meeting one on one with an educator, demonstrating or co-teaching a lesson, pulling students to finish a project, etc.  I’m writing this post around the end of the school year; It’s a Monday.  

My day started in a shared office space with other teacher resource specialists for technology.  I spent some time working on my parts of planning for summer training. We will be rolling out Chromebooks, to students in 7th grade, next year.  Our summer trainings are focusing on shifting the instruction to be more student centered with creation as a main factor.  I researched various tools, which the attendees will have time to “play” with and explore how it could fit their curricular area(s).

Around midday I met with a teacher to assist him with adding items to his webpage. Now this marks the fourth time I have met with him on this same topic.  He has taken hand-written notes, each time, and refers back to them, but, in my opinion, he likes having someone there to verify each step.  I’ve noticed, at least in terms of teachers who are not digital natives (grew up with the technology), that there is a fear.  A big portion of my job is spent trying to relieve the fear of technology.  One of the biggest differences between students and teachers in terms of technology is fear.  Students have no fear, they are what I like to call, wreckless clickers (tappers if it is a mobile device).  I strive to have our educators move past the fear of technology and embrace how it can impact instructional outcomes.

My afternoon, on this particular day, was more hands-on!  I became a ‘commercial producer’ for a third grade project called Biz World.  Students were placed in groups and formed a company.  They needed to select job positions, create a product (friendship bracelets), apply for bank loans, pitch venture capitalist to invest in their company, maintain a ledger of deposits/withdraws and of course design a marketing campaign.  That’s where I came in!  I met with this particular class previously to discuss techniques and show options on how they could create their commercial. Today we took their plans and produced a final, under one-minute spot.  I’m always amazed at student creativity.  A couple of companies understood the concept of getting their message across to their audience and some just wanted to be funny.  


Even though my school day ended, as a connected educator, I’m still actively involved in the digital world.  This night, I moderated a Twitter chat which I had created for educators who utilize a web tool called ThingLink.  Unfortunately, I was the lone tweeter.  Even though it wasn’t as successful as I would have liked, I keep trying to reach out with other educators and share ideas, techniques, experiences,etc.  It’s all about connecting!


Dan Gallagher is currently a teacher resource specialist for technology with a school district in New Jersey.  Previously, he has been a classroom teacher in both elementary and middle school as well as an elementary technology special area teacher and at one time, in PA, a technnsuaCFwN_400x400ology coach.  He is also an online adjunct professor for Instructional Technology.

Dan has a BS in Elementary Education from Lebanon Valley College and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Arcadia University.  He is involved in several different educational programs such as SMART Exemplary Educators, ThingLink Expert Educators, Nearpod Authors, Seesaw Ambassadors and Symbaloo Professional Development Pros.  

Feel free to connect with him either by following him on Twitter @Gallagher_Tech or subscribe to his blog – http://gallaghertech.edublogs.org/

~What did YOU do in school today?

WE UNDERSTAND THAT EDUCATION IS CHANGING

WHAT’S GOING ON
The world around us is changing at an exponential rate.  New technology, new information, and new ideas are available to us constantly.  Maybe it’s more than we want, maybe it’s more than we need, but it’s there.  And it’s not going away.

Some of us in the trenches of the classroom are frustrated by all of this “newness”, because it feels like just as soon as we learn and get used to something new, it’s time to move on to the next new thing.  And some of us embrace these changes, we understand that change is inevitable, and we eagerly incorporate as much of the “newness”  into our classrooms and our teaching as possible.

This latter group is operating under the mantra of John Dewey’s words: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”  We understand that, today, we have to prepare our students for the unforseen.   Today, we have to prepare them for careers that haven’t been thought of.   Today, we have to prepare students to compete against unknown opponents.  Today, we need to prepare them to use technology that hasn’t yet been imagined, or maybe even be the ones to imagine and create it.  Today, we need to teach our students how to adapt in an ever-changing world.

The rate at which the “newness” appears is only going to increase as time goes on.  We need to first: accept that, and second: understand that our job is no longer to simply teach students a neat list of ideas or concepts, but instead, we need to teach our students how to THINK.  The “what” that they learn is replaced in importance by the “how” and the “why” that our students learn.

HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
When embracing change and adapting your classroom to all of the “newness” coming at you, these are a few strategies I find helpful.

  • Don’t do it all at once.  It wouldn’t be possible to incorporate every new app, website, or theory immediately.  Choose one new thing at a time to try out, get used to, and then choose another.  Choose what makes the most sense to you and your students.  Incorporating change is a habit that needs to be built up gradually.
  • Think about sustainability.  When making changes in your classroom or to how you teach, think about what it will take for you to maintain this change in the future, and question the likelihood that this change  is something that will continue to be necessary.  The more you do it, the easier discerning sustainable changes will become.
  • Support each other.  Some teachers will simply have a harder time than others with all of the change.  And probably, the longer an individual has been teaching, the harder it may be for that person to change.  Before they break, help them bend.  Share ideas.  Share examples.  Take time to teach and learn from each other. 
  • Listen to your students.  The most important changes to make in your classroom are the ones the students will respond to, and benefit from, the most.  Find out what their interests, aptitudes, and requirements are, and make the changes necessary for them to succeed in your class.  Ask your students what they’d like to see become a part of your class, and you may be surprised.

Change can be exciting and does not need to be an intimidating concept.  In fact, what might actually be the most frightening idea of all, is what might happen if we don’t change.

What did YOU do in school today?