“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
Learning is not easy and there are many areas of research that purport to know how we do it. One thing is for sure though, learning can be tough. We’ve certainly seen that in schools with educators’ confidence and competence when it comes to their use of technology to support and enhance learning and teaching.
A frequently used acrostic in education uses the word ‘fail,’ where the first letters from each word form the phrase ‘First Attempt In Learning’. It’s recognised that learning will most likely not be easy and will involve failed attempts along that learning journey. It’s a message we regularly share with our students when they feel despondent as they struggle with learning new concepts or ideas.
There are strategies that we can use to help us move out of a feeling of despair when things aren’t going so well. Using the adage of learning to ride a bike, it’s likely we’ll fall off. As we gain confidence using stabilisers, so we learn to gain balance and eventually we can ride, go faster, turn corners, ride on the road, even pull stunts such as a wheelie.
Taking this approach, we can do the same thing when it comes to learning to use technology effectively. It’s why I always share my ‘Bananarama principle’ in that it’s not (so much) what you do, it’s the way that you do it!
In this post, I’ll share six prompts you can take to help you develop your skills whilst giving you the confidence that having some stabilisers on your bike would give you too.
- Will this impact learning or make my life easier?
Asking simple questions such as the one above will help you to ascertain whether the use of the technology you’re seeking to explore is worth it. Asking the question, ‘is the juice worth the squeeze?’ (i.e. is this activity worth my time in exploring it?) will help you to know that your efforts, before you even start, will help give you the motivation to stick with your learning.
- Can I team up?
Reaching out to other members of your team or across your institution, asking if others are exploring what you are, means you could pair up or join together with more people, if more are interested. By working together as you develop your skills, you can share the things you’ve found to not work; thus, sharing learning together and helping each other avoid the same pitfalls. Equally, if you’re stuck, asking a colleague who you know is already confident and competent in the thing you’re exploring, would form a great source to help you with your edtech learning.
- Are there any courses available?
There are many free edtech CPD courses available for educators to join in with. Microsoft, Google and Apple all have their offers, such as the Apple Teacher programme. Here, by visiting its dedicated site, you can get specific training on the different apps available – either on Mac or iPad – and with tests on each section, you can see how you’re progressing. Once completed, you achieve your Apple Teacher badge – which is lovely! Along the journey too, there’s lots of help, demonstrations and tutorials to assist you with your learning. And if it’s not working too well for you, you could always try the option above to get some help from colleagues – or why not attempt completing the programme along with other colleagues? Similarly, offers from Google and Microsoft follow the same kinds of approaches.
- Have you tried asking Google?
It might seem an obvious thing, but if you’re stuck on something you’re trying to achieve, asking Google can often be a great way to find the answer. I’m always amazed by people who ask me questions but haven’t tried this obvious step. Do it. I find it quite empowering to be able to solve a problem by myself. It is rarely the case that the problem you’re trying to solve hasn’t been solved previously by someone else, so make sure you undertake this important step.
Imagine you’re trying to replicate formulae in Excel which looks at a lookup table to bring up results but, as you replicate it, to save time writing the formula each time, it’s not working properly… a quick search would teach you about using absolute cell referencing so that the formula stays looking at the specific lookup table.
- Have you asked a student digital leader?
Many schools have a student digital leader programme that sees students supporting their teachers in their use of technology for learning and teaching. A popular approach in schools, it’s a great way to get some help if you’re finding some aspects of your edtech learning difficult. The student digital leaders’ purpose is to help the school community with edtech and online learning, so it is likely that they would be able to assist you and even run some training sessions with you to help you with your learning.
If you don’t have them in your school, then you could even consider setting up this group to not only help you but others within your school community. For more information on how you could approach this, why not read this free short book I wrote about it.
- Be realistic!
The truth of it is, sometimes learning with technology can be hard and it doesn’t always work as expected. Even though I consider myself to be better than most with my use of technology, things don’t always work for me. Sometimes it’s the infrastructure that fails me, such as when the Wi-Fi goes down. Other times, it’s down to me forgetting how to do something and needing to refresh myself – or I simply don’t know.
As someone who is self-critical and reflective, the key characteristic I’ve identified that makes me successful with my use of technology is my resilience or “stickability,” as I call it. I’m tenacious.
It may take me longer to work out how to do the thing I am trying to do, but once I’ve mastered it, practising it makes it become more deeply ingrained in my skillset and makes me more able to repeat the activity successfully.
A simple example of this was when I learned the keyboard shortcut on my MacBook to take screenshots that are copied to the clipboard that can then be pasted elsewhere. The shortcut is a beast. It’s CMD+Control+Shift+4. Four keys!
As I say, it’s a beast. No simple Ctrl+P for printing here! It took me some time to master it. Now though, I have automaticity, which means I can unconsciously, as a reflex and an ingrained habit, simply press the keys to perform the action without having to even think about it. In fact, in writing this, I had to put my fingers in situ, just to remember what the actual keys were!
It’s the practising of these things, these micro-improvements to your use of technology which can, ultimately, bring lots of aggregated marginal gains – helping to turn you into that “power user” of educational technology. It isn’t going to be easy. It will take time. The key though is your commitment to self-improvement and developing your skills that will lead to success. That isn’t an issue with the technology; that’s down to us – and reflecting it back, is upon you.
If you want to get better with your use of technology, you can take all the steps outlined above and more, but for you to flourish with your skills, it’s that commitment and “stickability” which will make all the difference.
I hope you found this article useful. Let us know by dropping us a line on Twitter @NetSupportGroup or @ICTEvangelist.