Learning to use and integrate educational technology is very similar to becoming a musician that is proficient at playing many instruments.
As Seth Godin depicts so well in his book, The Dip, when it comes to many new endeavours we often experience a learning curve that looks something like the following (below):
Now as much as we’d all love for this line to be linear, it’s often not the case. When it comes to technology and learning something new, we often have to spend many hours before we feel comfortable and confident in using the new tool/app/program. An added layer of complexity comes in when we’re hoping to use this new technology with our students in our classrooms. We don’t just want to feel somewhat confident, we all want to feel prepared and ready to support our students and deal with any hiccups that will inevitably pop up.
When it comes to learning about new ed tech and taking the leap to use it with your students, one mindset/approach that I believe is worth adopting is to “learn one instrument at a time”.
Learn one instrument at a time.
We sometimes see really gifted musicians around us that seem to be able to play anything. Piano, drums, guitar, etc. What we fail to see is the journey that those musicians took to become proficient in using each instrument. The hours upon hours they spent solely focusing on one instrument aren’t always evident to the rest of us. Upon feeling confident in playing one instrument, learning a second one isn’t so daunting. There is still a learning curve for that second instrument, but often there is significant transferable knowledge and experience that you can apply from all your previous learning that reduces the dip in this second curve (and the third curve, and so on). Learning to use and integrate educational technology is very similar to becoming a musician that is proficient in playing many instruments.
Years ago, when I first started looking to introduce new technologies to my students, I went with the “try everything and see what sticks” approach. I tried to learn about every new web 2.0 tool that was coming out and immediately implement that tool in my classroom. The problem with this approach is that I was often setting my students up to use these new technologies at a very surface level. Not only that, but I didn’t provide them the necessary time that is needed to become competent at using something new in their learning.
The mindset I now adopt when it comes to educational technology is to “learn one instrument at a time”. Now don’t get me wrong… I absolutely still dabble in all sorts of new technologies that are emerging (mainly because I’m a bit of a tech geek). That being said, when looking to implement new technology with my students, I’m setting them (and myself) up for success by focusing on using one technology tool and supporting them in becoming proficient at using it over time. For example, if you’ve decided you want to learn more about e-Portfolios and implement them with your students, think about all the ways you can leverage this tool across all your subjects/classes to enhance and deepen learning for your students. Google Apps for Education, iPads in the classroom, countless web 2.0 tools, coding, creating student websites… the list is infinite and continues to grow at an exponential rate. By focusing on one new technology at a time, you empower your students to truly add this new technology to their tool belt (and it becomes a realistic go-to option for them when engaging in their learning). This approach also gets you as the teacher the most “bang for your buck”. As a teacher, time is always a scarce commodity. If you can learn and implement the same technology throughout many of your classes/courses and throughout your teaching day, you will observe a much greater impact on your investment.
This focused approach on one new technology at a time sets us all (students, teachers, administrators, parents) up for success. Similar to those multi-talented musicians, we can always look to layer on and add a new instrument to our repertoires, once we’ve spent significant time becoming proficient at the first instrument. And since ed tech skills are so transferable, each new technology will often be easier to layer on than the last.
Learn one instrument at a time… better yet, implement one instrument at a time.