Wondering why some teachers find technology integration so much easier than others? These award winning educators share many skills that helped lead to their success and recognition from peers.
Have you ever wondered why some teachers find it much easier than others to effectively use technology in the classroom, having fun and improving outcomes in the process? You’re not alone. But it turns out that a lot of what it takes isn’t necessarily that challenging, and it’s not about the technology as much as it is about being willing to spend a little extra time, work with others, and throw your hat in the ring. With a few of these “secrets” at your disposal, you’ll create your own award-worthy tech integration success story in no time!
WHRO, the Public Broadcasting Network in the state of Virginia, has been recognizing educators for excellence in technology integration for several years. While perusing the WHRO Excellence in Technology Teacher Awards page, and the write-ups they’ve done about the recipients of these awards, it struck me that many of the actions and characteristics that led to them being recognized provide important insights into how all teachers can succeed with technology integration in the classroom.
The secret to successful technology integration would appear to lie in certain skills and techniques. These teachers have shown initiative and leadership, and quite of few of them have used similar practices – collaboration, sharing their knowledge, being willing to take chances on grants, pilot projects, and new tools – to advance their effectiveness with leveraging technology in their classrooms. In today’s article, I have used excerpts from the published materials about these award winning teachers to highlight some of their “secrets” – practices that all teachers will want to consider when striving to make the most of technology integration in their classrooms.
Mr. Christopher Chappell, a social studies teacher at Menchville High School in Newport News, was recognized as the 2012 “Technology Integrator of the Year” at the High School level.
- Look for opportunities to participate in technology pilot projects: Chappell was selected to pilot the VDOE’s Beyond Textbooks initiative. His passion for technology integration and a reputation as an outstanding, innovative teacher helped to secure him this role, but he had to extend himself first. “This initiative brought together educators, technologists, app designers, and textbook companies to produce and implement electronic learning resources for mobile devices. Mr. Chappell’s role was to integrate social studies apps into his World History and World Geography classes to determine the effect such integration would have on his students’ learning.”
- Collaborate: Mirroring a theme you will see throughout many of these awards, Chappell collaborated with media specialists, technology integration specialists, and another high school teachers while working on the project.
- Challenge and empower your students: Students were challenged to become researchers, inquirers, and content producers, and they were provided a mobile device to use over the course of the full school year towards this end.
- Present to peers: He has also presented on mobile learning to his peers at a VSTE learning event and at the National Council for the Social Studies national conference.
Results! 95% of his A.P. students earned “qualified” or above scores, and 50% earned “well-qualified” or above. In both Geography and World History, all students reached proficiency on the end of course SOL tests, and a quarter or more passed at the advanced level.
As a second year teacher at Victory Elementary in Portsmouth, Rachel Heil was recognized in 2011 as Technology Educator of the Year at the Elementary School level.
- Apply for grants: Heil applied for and won a division grant, and used these funds to set up student computer workstations which included an interactive whiteboard, MP3 players, Flip video cameras, and digital voice recorders. Grant opportunities are great way to secure funds for equipment, software, and services that can provide you and your students with access to tools they might not otherwise have access to (but you don’t apply, you’ll never have these opportunities!).
- Allow students to share their knowledge: As students in her class worked with these new tools, they in turn taught other students and teachers how to use the technology.
- Facilitate technology integration professional development: Heil encouraged fellow teachers to attend “Tech Tuesday” classes after school. She even organized car pools to help get them there! She is also a member of, and contributor to, the school division’s professional learning community. By seeking out professional development opportunities, getting involved, and encouraging others, teachers can be “shining stars”, providing a great example while helping peers learn and grow.
- Network: As a Discovery Education Network (DEN) Star, Heil networks locally, regionally, and nationally. She is a model for other teachers to follow. Today’s tech tools and social media make it easier than ever to build, expand, and leverage your own Personal Learning Network (learn more in this article).
The 2012 Elementary Technology Educator of the Year was awarded to Ashley Theriault, 4th Grade Teacher, Hilton Elementary School, Newport News.
- Share your expertise: “Ashley Theriault’s enthusiasm for technology and innate desire to be on the cutting edge compels her to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology and to share her expertise with teachers and students.” Making the time and taking the effort to share what you learn about technology can help other teachers get a leg up on technology integration, and also lead to new opportunities. Her fourth grade team was one of only two across her school division to be selected as a pilot team for a 1:1 tablet computing initiative.
- Collaborate: Theriault collaborated closely with teachers on her team to, “transform instruction into a digital interactive 21st century learning experience for students using iPads, Glogster, podcasting, blogging, and digital e-portfolios. Videos of her technology-rich performance assessments in action have been used during division presentations at gatherings such as ASCD’s annual conference.”
Results! Theriault’s students regularly ace their annual science SOL test. 97% of her students have achieved proficiency and 38% have achieved at the advanced level. Students leave her class ready for the next grade, loaded with self-directed learning strategies that incorporate technology.
The 2011 Middle School Technology Educator of the Year was awarded to Melissa Chai Eighth Grade English Teacher, at Toano Middle School in Williamsburg.
“Her positive attitude, exceptional leadership, dedication to her students and fellow colleagues, along with her initiative to bring innovative technology into the school make her the Middle School Technology Educator of the Year.”
- Take initiative: Ms. Chai worked hard at improving all students’ achievement through the use of technology. “She took the sole initiative to create the Stonehouse Elementary Computer Club in 2006 and the Toano Middle School Computer Club in 2008 and now serves as the coach and sponsor of four teams that participated in the 2011 Great Computer Challenge.” Much as with collaboration, we see ‘taking initiative’ as a common thread in each of these success stories.
- Collaborate with colleagues: More collaboration? Absolutely – collaborating is not only a consistent theme in succeeding with technology integration work, it also helps to make it easier and more fun (maybe that’s part of the secret to why it works)! As an English teacher, “Chai worked collaboratively with colleagues on the development and sharing of lesson plans that provided students with a first-hand approach to technology, leading to a rise in the 8th grade reading pass rate from 84% to 97%.”
“For her creative and fun uses of technology to increase interest and knowledge in math”, Heather Ulsh, Math Teacher at Tabb Middle School in York, was selected at the 2011 Middle School Technology Educator of the Year.
- Create: Ulsh has learned how to take advantage of the latest technology tools to help keep her math students engaged. “Using GPS systems, she created a scavenger hunt on the football field to help students review for the SOL test. Students used Animoto, Glogster, MovieMaker, Toondoo, Blogs and Wikispaces to learn the essential vocabulary of math.” When you and your students use tech tools to create their own learning experiences, in can be engaging and make learning fun!
- Consider Using Social Media. Uslh figured, “if students are always on Facebook, why not take advantage of that as well. She created two Facebook groups to help students better understand algebra and Geometry”. Learn more about using Facebook in the classroom in this article.
- Have fun! As noted in the article, Ulsh has fun using technology, and you should too! Nothing makes learning and work more productive and enjoyable than having some fun while you’re doing it.
These award winning teachers are all inspirations to others, while they make their own jobs more fun and make learning more engaging for their students. As noted on the 2011 awards web page it is, “Not what they do for themselves, but how they involve and inspire others.” Collaborating, sharing your knowledge, networking, taking initiative by applying for grants or being willing to participate on pilot projects, and challenging and empowering your students are some of the “secrets” that can make a huge difference in how successful you can be at teaching and learning with technology.
You know we love to hear about YOUR tips and insights for successful technology integration (you don’t need to be an award winning teacher to have great ideas and experiences to share), so don’t hesitate to offer some comments!
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
20 Warning Signs That you are Falling Behind the Times with Technology as a Teacher
Can’t Keep Up with Professional Development? Build Your Personal Learning Network (it’s Never Been Easier)!
8 Exciting Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning Approaches That Teachers are Embracing in 2014