Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Tech Tales: A Technology Journey


 This is a guest post by Debbi Winterroth, a first grade teacher in Franklin Public Schools.

As a veteran teacher, my tech journey has been long.  My college papers were typed on a typewriter.  As a teacher, I remember using ditto machines, checking my mailbox in the office several times a day as that was the way we got messages, and even teachers did not have a computer on their desk.

Before March of 2020, I was good at email.  I had taken a few Google workshops in Franklin but was still not comfortable with the Drive, and I had never made a PowerPoint slide presentation.  So I had a lot to learn to run a Google Meet with my students, to create sign-ups on Signup Genius for small group teaching sessions, check student progress on Epic Books and DreamBox.  I learned to create libraries on Epic, find resources on the internet, and create links to YouTube videos.  During all of this I was supported by various teammates and specialists.  

A huge accomplishment for me was taking photos of each page of a picture book, downloading, snipping and putting them into a slideshow and then recording my voice reading the book using Screencastify.  It took hours because each step was something new I needed to learn.

Public domain image via Paula Piccard
Then the Fall came, and I was expected to teach using Google Classroom.  I had never seen it used, let alone used it myself.  My own motto of "Practice Makes Better and Better" was certainly a guiding theme.  Each step on the learning curve was hard won, but I knew I was demonstrating the grit and determination that I try to instill in my students.  I learned to use Break Out Rooms, make announcements in the Stream, share important information in Classwork, present my screen and actually teach and give feedback to students in the Meeting.

I learned how to use two computers so I could share with both on-line and in-person students.  We were able to continue a loved teaching practice of sharing writing pieces with the class as remote and in-person students took turns using the whiteboard screen to allow all to see and be seen.  We also sang and danced together using the same practice and built community with two groups of students who shared a classroom and a teacher but were never physically in the same place at the same time.

As much as primary education is about reading, writing, and math, it is also about creating a learner.  Developing a love of learning, a sense of determination when things are tough, a confidence that hard work will result in success.  Persistence and problem solving are important qualities that I explicitly model and teach in my classrooms.  In the past I would often do it by reading books with those themes and having class discussions.

This year, however, I modeled for them by being very open and transparent with my own learning struggles.  Students saw me make many attempts to get the technology to do what I had envisioned.  They heard me talk the problem out, and I would listen to them as they offered suggestions. . . . which often worked!  They saw me give myself permission to struggle and patience to learn.  They also saw that I did not give up.  I might have to wait until I could talk with an expert, but then I came back with a solution.  I modeled persistence, perseverance, grit.  I didn’t have to make up scenarios for discussions or read a book to find examples.  I was living it everyday.

Technology will continue to evolve and we will always have new things to learn.  But this year I showed myself and my students that we can adapt, learn, succeed as long as we are invested and willing to be creative problem solvers.