I often have teachers ask me how I know so much about technology (Hint: I DON’T know so much, just more than the people who ask me – and that’s all that matters). I can’t help but laugh when this comes up because as teachers we already know the answer. There’s no great secret to becoming proficient at any skill.
The answer is to simply spend time doing it.
Easier said than done? Maybe at first glance, but we know better. By virtue of the fact that you’re reading this post, I already know that you have some spark of interest in improving your skills and/or know-how in relationship to technology. That spark is all it takes to move you from Interested Party to Enthusiast and right on down the line to Expert.
“But it’s so hard to find the time!!”
Ah, the great “time” excuse. Magically we find the time to check our Facebook, watch our favorite TV shows, keep up to date on the latest YouTube viral videos, but we don’t have time to dedicate 5 minutes a day to improving an important skill that will affect the quality of our teaching, our ability to retain our jobs, and connect us with our students in ways we’ve never imagined.
I call shenanigans on these excuses.
How to start
Follow EdTech.tv on Twitter:
There you’ll get more than enough to keep you busy for 5 minutes a day pursuing something Ed Tech related. There’s also fun stuff. Soon (maybe very soon) you’ll find that one twitter feed is not enough, and you’ll start searching out hash tags like
or any of the other thousands of trending topics or useful people to follow such as
After a short amount of time you’ll find yourself searching out blogs, magazines, podcasts, and any other resources. Just like I tell my students, I’d rather see you work on this for 5 minutes a day, everyday, than for an hour once a week.
The Road is More Important than the Destination
I can’t emphasize this enough. In education, there is no end-point. A lot of people who claim to be intimidated by technology are excellent at what they consider “Analog skills”.
I like to examine this mentality by turning it around and focusing on one of those analog skills. Let’s look at cooking.
For most people who enjoy cooking, they took it on half out of necessity (remember college?) and half out of interest. I once knew a guy named Rich. Rich was broke and in college, and struggling to get by. He decided that cooking at home would be a good way to save some money, and maybe score a couple of dates. In the beginning, Rich learned things like how not to burn eggs, or how to flip a pancake, and when he messed up – it didn’t matter – it was just for him anyway. Soon enough he felt confident enough in one or two dishes to serve them to a friend or a date. But did knowing 2 dishes make him a good cook?
I would argue yes. Rich was a good cook when it came to those two dishes.
If I went to an Italian restaurant and told the chef that I wanted Thai Green Curry, would I say that he’s not a good cook as I ducked out of the way of flying pots and pans? Probably not.
Any skill, be it cooking, or piano playing, or using technology, is a matter of slowly getting better at parts, and eventually putting those parts together to become proficient.
So right here and now, I’d like to give you permission to not be perfect at Ed Tech.
I repeat, you have my permission to not be good at Ed Tech.
Now that you don’t have to be good at it, isn’t it suddenly much easier to play with it?
Now I’m not trying to imply that the freedom of not having to be good at something makes it much easier to engage with it, and therefore much more quickly become better at it – I would never dare suggest such a thing. But should you happen to find that helps you improve your ability to learn, well… let me just say that is not intentional.
Back to Rich’s cooking.
One or two years down the line, Rich found himself not looking at the cookbooks as much, but adding seasonings by taste and “intuition.” Intuition, by the way, is another word for experience and practice. I went to Rich’s house and he chatted about work and the news as he threw ingredients into pots and sampled sauces.
When the homemade gnocci came out with an alfredo artichoke sauce, I suddenly realized Rich was an excellent cook. When I asked him how he got so good, he shrugged and said “I dunno, I just cook everyday.”
The Myth of the Nerd
You don’t have to have a “logical mind” or be good at math to learn about technology. That’s like saying you have to understand the principles of electricity in order to turn on the lights in your house.
The nerdy tech guy in your school isn’t special. He just spent time learning how to do the stuff you haven’t.
But he is smart. He knows that as long as he seems irreplaceable, he will be. This is why he (or she!) uses jargon and tells you not to worry about how things work.
Incorporating technology into your classroom is the same as turning the lights on. All you have to know is which switches go to which lights, and do they flip up and down, or turn in a dial.
That’s it. You’re a nerd.
Boiled Down Summary
Getting good at technology requires 3 things:
- Interest. Luckily, you already have this – double true if you’ve read this far.
- Time. Amazingly, you also have PLENTY of this. Every day for the rest of your life.
- The ability to recognize that you don’t have to be perfect to get good. Interestingly, I just gave you this as well.
“So wait, I have it all?”
So now it’s just the details. Those little bits that push you down the road. Let me know in the comments or by e-mail what you those bits are, and I’ll try to help you get one step further.