Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

5 Ways to Become a Technology Risk-Taker in Your Classroom

5 Ways to Become a Technology Risk-Taker in Your Classroom

By Lisa Berghoff

Are you an adventurous person? Would you love to jump out of a plane, go bungee jumping, or swim with sharks? Or, do you like things to be more safe and predictable?

Does your answer hold true in your classroom? Are you the type of teacher who loves to try new things, or are you happy with the tried and true strategies that you know well?

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I am definitely not interested in doing anything that involves being upside down in the air; however, I am a risk-taker in my classroom, especially when it comes to technology. I have been teaching teenagers with special needs for 19 years and I’ve seen some crazy programs, pieces of equipment, and assistive technology.

I’ve also seen many of those crazy things actually work, increasing student engagement, comprehension, and performance. The bottom line is that I’m not fearful of using new technology with my students. I love trying new web2.0 tools and don’t worry about failing in front of my students.

I often wonder how this all-in attitude affects my students’ learning—I believe they’re better off for it.

More: Encourage your students to read more with Whooo’s Reading

Many teachers are aware of Growth Mindset from Carol Dweck’s research. Simply put, it’s the idea that our basic qualities are not fixed or set in stone, but that through hard work and dedication, one can develop their abilities.

I know of educators who are implementing and teaching this concept to teach their students that if they can push through and persevere in the face of frustration, and even failure, that they can grow, change, succeed, and meet their goals.

“I know of many teachers who are implementing and teaching the concept of growth mindset to help their students understand that they can push through and persevere…I’m asking teachers to do the same thing with technology.”

I’m asking teachers to do the same thing with technology.

The teacher who says, Oh, I’m just not that good with technology, is saying that his or her skills are what they are, and could not possibly improve. This is problematic for two reasons.

First, students of teachers who fear using technology (or believe that they will never have the proper skills), will not be given as many opportunities to access technology for learning. That in and of itself is an issue, because our students need exposure and guidance for learning in a digital world. Many of our students are proficient at using technology for gaming or social media, but they need instruction on how to utilize technological resources for learning purposes.

Second, when it comes to long-term technology use, attitude is as important as aptitude. Teachers need to be role models for students, showing them how to problem solve and troubleshoot when things go wrong, or when they want to learn how to do something.

If you’re a teacher who could use a technology-mindset reboot, you’re in the right place. Here are some tips to help you feel more confident with technology, which can help you feel comfortable with being a technology risk-taker in the classroom.

1. Find a Face-to-Face Buddy

I never miss a day at the gym when I am meeting a friend, but left to my own devices I find every excuse to skip out. Using technology in the classroom is the same way. Having a trusted, friendly colleague along for the ride can help keep you accountable and make sure that you’re actually using the new website that you just created, for example.

It’s also helpful to have someone to reflect with on what’s going well and what needs tweaking. Find someone who is slightly more skilled than you, but not someone who intimidates you.

2. Find an Online Buddy

Just like a colleague who can pop into your classroom to lend a hand, a friend who you connect with online will be able to assist you during those times when you’re planning, but not at school.

I have found Twitter to be the best source of online support and professional development for educators.

Teachers on Twitter are willing to share ideas and resources and you don’t have to feel embarrassed about asking questions because you won’t run into them in the teachers’ lounge.

If you’re new to twitter, there are many guides out there to get you started.

There’s a Twitter chat for new teachers to twitter called #Nt2T that meets on Saturdays at 8 AM CST. You can follow me, @LisaBerghoff, and I’d be happy to walk you through all that is out there in the Twitterverse.

3. Become Friends With YouTube 

If you’re embarrassed because you’ve been taught how to make a Google form so many times, but can’t seem to remember the steps, head to YouTube. YouTube has an endless supply of video tutorials that you can use—I’ve had a YouTube video open in one window and the application that I’m learning in another, so I can pause the video as I follow the directions.

More: 3-Minute YouTube Videos to Make You a Tech-Savvy Teacher

4. Talk to Your Students 

When I’m trying something new in my classes, I make sure to tell my students up front. I don’t tell them that I’m worried that it won’t work or that I know I will look foolish showing them this new thing.

However, I do tell them that I’m learning something new and I can’t wait for them to learn it too because it’s awesome. I tell them that their class was chosen (by me) to be the first ones to try it out, learn it, and even become experts who can show others.

When I explain to them that I only know the basics, they jump at the chance to be the ones to explore and then teach me what they’ve learned.

5. Know Your Threshold 

Stop comparing yourself to your tech-savvy colleagues, and instead, pat yourself on the back for the new things you’ve tried recently.

As you progress, it’s important to set small, reasonable goals for yourself, like trying one new tool per unit or expanding your understanding of an app you already use. If you set your sights too high, you may put yourself on overload and stop trying altogether. Remind yourself that any forward movement is a good thing.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you try something and it fails miserably, reflect, and reach out to those who can help you figure out what went wrong. It might have been that you used the wrong tool for the task or it may be that the task itself was flawed. Just know that as you progress in learning, your students will too, and that makes stepping out of your comfort zone, becoming a risk taker in the classroom, worth it.

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Be a technology risk taker in the classroom

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  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Become a Technology Risk-Taker in the ClassroomLearn2Earn Blog | Chad Kliefoth: Confessions of a Tech Integrator

  2. Pingback: Why Teachers Can’t Ignore STEM Skills Any Longer | Learn2Earn Blog

  3. Pingback: How to Create a Tech-based Curriculum Using the SAMR Model

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