Sunday, June 13, 2010

Take Risks to Increase Learning

In just 7 years of teaching, I have seen a big shift in how technology can be used in the classroom. When I first began, my classroom had 1 computer for me to enter grades and email parents. The most technology I ever used in my instruction was an overhead projector and calculators. Now we are teaching in classrooms with SMART Boards, iPads, iPods, laptops, wireless Internet, smart phones, student response systems, and numerous Web 2.0 tools. The amount of technology available and the quality of technology available must change the way we teach. Ferriter, 2010 explains that in recent years, schools have changed the way they spend money by investing billions of dollars in technology. Yet the way we teach has not changed enough to keep up with the increase of technology. What must we do in our instruction to effectively integrate this technology?

Ferriter, 2010 continues by offering solutions for implementing significant changes to help our schools implement more effective digital instruction. His solutions include offering online and independent studies, delivering academic help to struggling students digitally, redesigning teacher preparation programs, making standards more flexible, and redesigning teacher evaluation programs. He also provides Web 2.0 tools that can be beneficial in the classroom. Tools to help teachers become active digital learners include the Classroom 2.0 online network and the Educator's Personal Learning Network. More options like Screencasts, Voicethread, and Skype are tools that teachers and students can use directly in instruction and learning.

I have one solution to help teachers implement technology which I think encompasses all of Ferriter's suggestions. Take risks. All of the new technology tools and digital methods are new to education. They offer new ways to engage students and provide differentiation to a variety of learners. Since it seems that there are new tools each week that are available to teachers, we may be expected to try methods that we were never trained to use. Taking risks in the classroom will be beneficial for the students. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will provide an example to students about what it takes to learn new ideas and concepts. In addition, taking chances will not always result in effective instruction or learning for the students. There will be mistakes made. There will be ineffective lessons. These situations will provide the teacher with an opportunity to be a problem solver, perhaps even solving the problem with the students.

Technology though, by itself, will not determine how effective or successful a teacher is in the classroom. The technology that is being used today is different than what was used 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 100 years ago. There have been very successful teachers before SMART Boards, computers, and the Internet were ever used. The success of teachers in the past should be remembered because their methods are still applicable, regardless of technology they used. I asked Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1), a retired teacher who began his career in 1969, what successful methods or techniques he thinks teachers use no matter what era they taught in and no matter what technology they used. Mr. Blumengarten is a former teacher who began teaching with film strips, 16 mm films and overhead projectors. By the time he finished his career he had seen quite a few changes in how technology is used in the classroom. He explained that successful education begins with teachers and schools remembering that it is not about the technology, it is about the learning. We must put our focus on the learning of students. If technology is a tool that helps increase student learning, then we must embrace the opportunities it provides. Yet we cannot forget about the relationships that we build with our students, the positive role models we can be, and the learning that we can foster among our students. Take risks with the technology. Do not be afraid to try something new in your classroom. However, don't forget that your most important job is to help students learn.

Blumengarten, J. (2010, June 5). Email interview.

Ferriter, W.M. (2010). Preparing to teach digitally.Educational Leadership, 67(8), 88-89.


  1. Great post, Kevin, and a great reminder that teaching is not about the tools! Sometimes, taking risks can be the hardest thing, but it is good for us to remember that we learn just as much or more from our mistakes as we do from our successes.

  2. I think it is so hard for teachers to remember that it is OK to make mistakes and for lessons to fail. I am somewhat of a perfectionist at heart, so it is difficult for me to take risks knowing it might not work out. But taking risks are necessary both inside and outside of the classroom to grow in our teaching. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  3. Great post and nice way to end about remembering that our most important job is to help students learn! Love the fact that with all these new technologies we can't be afraid to 'take risks'. That should be one of these 21st Century Skills. Take risks and be willing to learn from your students. Great job.