I am Michelle Phillips and have been teaching in north Texas for 11 years. Most of my teaching experience has been with 4th through 7th grade science. I have a B.S in Elementary Education and will adding a M.S in Instructional Media in May, Sustaining Digital Literacy (EDIM 516) is my last class before graduation. I have two certifications through SMART: SMART Certified Education Administrator and SMART Certified Trainer. I am also a Discovery Education STAR Educator and SMART Exemplary Educator.
I started integrating technology into my classroom lessons about 8 years ago. It started when I taught 4th grade math and science with my friend Rob Vardeman (@mr_v). He told me about the Einstruction (@einstruction) remote system that he used at his previous school and I was hooked. I immediately wrote two grants for my school and we purchased 4 sets. My school district soon started using SMARTboards (@SMART_Tech). I wanted to learn more so I signed up and completed the SMART Certified Education Administrator certification. I then taught other teachers on my campus and throughout my district how to use them with their students. I furthered my training when my district paid for me to complete the SMART Certified Trainer program.
I have presented at and attended technology conferences locally and statewide to learn more about technology integration. I flipped my 6th grade science classroom last year with great success and plan on flipping my 7th grade science classroom next year. This year I made the switch from a larger, tech savvy district to a small district with far less resources and experience with technology. Of course I wish that I had more technology available to me but it’s about what you do with what you have, not how much you have. Quality over quantity, right?
This change has come at the perfect time for me. The district has just started the process of writing its own curriculum and I have had great success in implementing new technology into the 7th grade science curriculum. It is a great experience. I am back at the beginning but with all the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 8 years!
Twitter has become my favorite place to learn about new ideas and technology. I started using Twitter three years ago when I attended a statewide technology conference. Rob told me that I needed to connect with a teacher he knew that would be attending. I started following all the teachers of the presentations I attended and it quickly grew from there. I join the DEN (Discovery Educator Network) and SEE (SMART Exemplary Educator) chats on Twitter as often as possible and check out new resources as people post about things they are doing in their classrooms.
I look to other educators and educational authors and bloggers when I research a technology tool or idea for my classroom. I have expanded my educational reading collection through the textbooks for my EDIM classes as well as suggestions of great reads from others on Twitter. I also experiment with the different technology tools and websites before I try them with my students. This doesn’t guarantee success but helps work out some of the kinks before my students and I try to use them together.
There are many challenges of using technology in the classroom. I talk with my students before we do something new with technology. I discuss what we are going to do and what we hope to accomplish. They need to know why we are using the technology tool and how it will help enhance the content of our lessons. I also teach them that things don’t always work as expected and we may need to be flexible or find a new way to reach our goal. My students are learning how to discuss the effectiveness of different technology tools and how to use their problem solving skills when the technology doesn’t work the way we want it to or stops working altogether. Another challenge is the availability of technology now that I have moved to a smaller district. I have learned to plan in advance based on what technology tools are open. I teach at a 7-8 middle school with 1,000 students, 2 computer labs, 1 iPad cart and 4 laptop carts with 15 computers each. The infrastructure needed to support these devices and our BYOD policy is lacking and the devices themselves are older and don’t always work properly.
I’m very lucky that my administration supports my use of new technology and lets me try new things with my students without prior approval. I try to create a transparent environment so that everyone, including parents, can see what our learning objectives are, why the technology was chosen to enhance the content and how we solve problems that arise so that our learning objectives are always met. I have learned that technology integration is not about the amount of technology available but what you do with it. Quality over quantity!