There are some educators out there that make classroom technology integration look easy. For most of us, it’s a daunting task: converting your paper-and-folder, marker-and-poster classroom systems to mobile devices and the cloud. And the ones who dig right in, despite their reservations, to equip their students with the educational technology experiences they need for a 21st century education seem to have an invincible air about them.
So what’s different about these teachers? What key traits do they have in common that make them stand out as leaders and technology whizzes in their communities?
For starters, they are often new to the field, and they’re not necessarily fresh out of school. In many cases, folks are choosing teaching as a second career and bringing their tech skills to the classroom. Education is one of the only fields that hasn’t yet integrated technology fully into its workings, so many people from other industries find ways to apply their business or engineering tech skills to the classroom. People who can bring new ways of thinking into an educational setting are often more comfortable taking the plunge with technology. And yes, some of them are also fresh out of teacher prep programs and are carrying those experiences into their first jobs.
They are naturally curious people. You know the ones—they read a lot, ask a ton of conversational questions, and seem to have endless free time for diverse hobbies. They’re tinkerers, always looking for the best way to keep their calendars or manage their checking account. These people aren’t afraid to try something new. Where many of us would prefer systems that work well and that we can easily control, these change-addicts get bored easily and are always looking to integrate a little spice in all areas of their lives. They gravitate toward technology out of curiosity, and can envision how it might work in their classrooms too.
They “play well with others.” Let’s face it—some of us were more cut out for teamwork than others. It can be hard to come together and work cooperatively, especially with a huge personal workload and limited time. But these instructors know how to come to the table and collaborate. Often technology integration has many moving parts, and requires people with a variety of roles (superintendents, IT folks, educators, parents, etc.) to work together, prioritizing and problem solving. Those who have an affinity for this way of working tend to be the ones pioneering ed tech initiatives.
They are good at asking for what they need. Many schools have setups that are not technology-friendly. There is still much ground to cover in terms of policy, rules, teaching methods, and more. However, the change agents that tend to take on the challenge of new technology-rich teaching methods are very good at identifying and asking for what they need. These are the teachers that get the green light for unconventional classroom setups, more funding for devices or e-materials, or a meeting with the principal or superintendent.
It takes a special kind of personality to think creatively about instruction and to initiate change in the classroom and beyond. For those who aren’t naturally inclined to shake things up, it can be helpful to work on one or two of these traits. Experiment with keeping a Google calendar for appointments, or create a Pinterest board as a wish list of ideas for your classroom. Sometimes just thinking about the possibilities is a good way to strategize for the future.
Technology integration should be a key priority for all teachers, even if your district hasn’t formally begun such efforts. It is already part of students’ day to day lives outside the classroom—and the more we can weave it into the classroom, the better prepared we’ll all be for the advent of new learning environments.