Educators Share Tech Struggles: From Tablets To Twitter

Educators from around the world shared lessons on how to best utilize mobile, social and other technologies at annual ASCD education conference.
Teachers and administrators were also eager to share their successes and frustrations using technology in the classroom.

At Dodgeland Elementary School in Juneau, Wis., computers available to students include a cart of iPads, Lenovo laptops and netbooks. "These are in addition to our computer lab of desktop computers," elementary principal Jessica Johnson explained in an email. "But it is looking like the iPads are the favorite tool to use," she added.

Johnson noted that when Web-based tools like Google Docs are used, students often continue using them at home, whether they are required to or not. "For example, students will continue blogging at night or ask parents to download an app to their iPhone or home tablet," she said.

In addition, every Dodgeland Elementary classroom is equipped with a SmartBoard, which teachers use throughout the day for a variety of purposes, including interactive presentations, recording student work and playing media such as YouTube clips and images.

Another school using interactive boards is Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge, La., which installed Promethean boards about five years ago, said school principal and Istrouma graduate Robert Webb Jr.

But when Webb noticed teachers were using the interactive whiteboards solely for presentation, he realized "we needed to give the teachers some professional development." Things changed quickly after that, with teachers handing off control of the boards to students, he said.

ASDC attendee Melissa Edwards, a district instructional technologist with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, advocates using Twitter for finding quality online resources. "[Twitter] brings those of us in education together and out of our little silos," she told InformationWeek in a phone call.

Edwards said teachers and students in her district also actively use Edmodo, a secure, closed social media site that is sometimes described as a "Facebook for schools." North Carolina and other locations have policies that forbid teachers from connecting with students on Facebook.

At least one school in North Carolina is trying to teach its students best practices for Facebook and other social media sites. The school prepared a guidebook for how to use social media effectively, and now is developing lesson plans and activities to support these guidelines, Edwards said.

Regarding obstacles, Edwards said they mostly boil down to a "fear of the unknown" and hesitancy by teachers to embrace new ideas before totally understanding them. "But as a teacher, you have to let go of some of the control, let learning happen and not necessarily plan all the steps," she said.

The nonprofit ASCD claims 140,000 members and is comprised of superintendents, principals, teachers and professors in 134 countries.

ASCD offers multiple ways for educators and others to connect: A 50,000-strong blog platform called ASCD EDge; Twitter; Facebook; Pinterest; and YouTube.

Can data analysis keep students on track and improve college retention rates? Also in the premiere all-digital Analytics' Big Test issue of InformationWeek Education: Higher education is just as prone to tech-based disruption as other industries. (Free with registration.)

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