In a past blog post, we described the efforts of teachers trying to integrate technology and technological tools into their classrooms. Then came the pandemic, with an abrupt shift to distance learning that, by definition, was technology-dependent and a game-changing experience. Now our knowledge of educational technology has skyrocketed, along with a host of strategies we discovered worked and those that didn’t.
The EdWeek Research Center surveyed over 1,000 educators this past August to determine what types of technology and what strategies they planned to bring with them from the remote learning of the past year into the in-person Fall 2021 school term, noting that “It’s one thing to use technology, and another to apply it effectively. As technology grows in relevance to teaching and learning in K-12 schools, it’s critical that teachers be prepared to do the latter and that recruiters know how to identify them.”
Here are the top five strategies the survey uncovered.
Strategy #1: Lead with learning, not technology
Technology is a tool teachers can use to aid student learning — a means to an end, not the end itself. Content must be robust, and grade-appropriate learning must be achievable for all students in the class. Technological tools work by helping students make sense of new content by providing new and different ways of presenting information.
Strategy #2: Go with depth of technical knowledge over superficiality
There are so many new gadgets and programs out there, it’s understandable that a teacher might want to use half a dozen of them to help reach all the students in her class. However, using that many means you’re an expert of none. It’s more effective to become deeply knowledgeable about one or two technological tools and learn to configure them to meet your needs. That way you have better control over content flow and how the students interact with it.
Strategy #3: Recognize when technology complements or surpasses traditional options
Before the pandemic, if teachers wanted to schedule a museum visit or a chat with specialists in different professions to inform their students, they had to arrange for a bus and permission slips and the time off from classes so everyone could participate. During the lockdowns, though, kids, parents, professionals, and teachers alike became more able and willing to use video conferencing technology, going on virtual field trips or connecting with someone halfway around the world through Zoom.
Now that students are back in a physical classroom, is it really the best thing to ignore the ease and convenience of the technology that brought us together in favor of old-school ideas? In these cases, no, it isn’t. At the press of a button, students can be transported anywhere the lesson demands, with far less logistical trouble. And it adds convenience for parents, too, by allowing them to log into a parent-teacher conference rather than having to take time off work or find a sitter for the kids.
Strategy #4: Embrace the expertise of younger, “digital native” teachers
There’s nothing wrong with a veteran teacher asking a younger, more tech-savvy instructor for pointers about how best to use the technology available; after all, these youngsters likely grew up using some of it and have a firm grasp on what it can do. But make sure you refer back to Strategy #1 and lead with the content, otherwise you’ve got a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Strategy #5: Use technology to collaborate with colleagues
While pre-pandemic most teachers rarely interacted with other teachers in their school outside of professional days and the occasional joint project, during the year of distance learning, programs like Zoom allowed them to drop in on their colleagues whenever they had the time and to interact more broadly across disciplines. These kinds of interactions benefit students as well as teachers, as students come to see how the different content areas overlap and how all knowledge is linked. We should therefore continue to use these tools to encourage broader and more immersive learning.
Do you use technology in your classroom? Have you found strategies you learned from remote learning helpful as we transition back to in-person classes? What have you found that didn’t work and shouldn’t be implemented moving forward? Leave us your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
 Heubect, Elizabeth. (September 22, 2021). “5 Practices of Truly Tech-Savvy Teachers.” Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/5-practices-of-truly-tech-savvy-teachers/2021/09.