I'm writing this today from the CUE Rock Star conference in La Jolla, CA. If you have the chance to attend a CUE Rock Star event, I'd highly recommend it. Limited attendance allows for great ratio between speaker and attendees. This provides an amazing opportunity for learning and networking. You can check the website here to see if there are any events coming up in your area.
My biggest thought today is a thought I've had during all the ed tech conferences I've attended lately.
It's not the tech you use, it's how you use it.
So if you feel like you can't possibly keep up with all the new apps and tools out there - that's ok. You won't be a terrible teacher because you don't know all the cool new tricks. Should you have a good foundation with the basics of what is out there? Absolutely. If your students have Google Apps, commit to learn all about Google Apps. You can do amazing things just by utilizing the basics in meaningful ways. Then you can work on learning more a little at a time. Technology won't automatically make you a good teacher. Don't lose sight of the instincts that make you good at what you do. Just because we have all this amazing technology at our fingertips, it doesn't mean that we give up everything we know about good teaching, throw out all the textbooks, hand each kid a device, and sit back to watch the test scores rise.
It's true that there are many new devices, websites, and apps out there that allow teachers and students to do incredibly creative things. How we structure our lessons and assignments should be changing in dramatic ways because of it. If we allow the available technology to transform the way we think about what students can and should be doing for their assignments, learning can be impacted in amazing ways. The hard thing is, this can easily lead to you feeling overwhelmed by all that is out there. It can make you feel like you are doing everything all wrong when you see some of the advanced things others are doing. Should some of those things be goals for you? Yes. Should you expect to do them tomorrow with confidence and ease? Not necessarily.
I say start with the basics. Whatever platform your students are using - Google, Microsoft, etc. - learn it, and learn it well. Unless you have a good feel for what you can do with it, it won't begin to change the design of your lessons and assignments in truly meaningful ways. Start with the basics, use those great teacher instincts about what will help your students connect with the content, and never be afraid to ask for help.
Technology alone is fun and interesting. Technology in the hands of a great teacher becomes incredibly powerful.