Inviting Teachers to Reflect on Their Use of Technology During COVID-19 – Digital Promise

Inviting Teachers to Reflect on Their Use of Technology During COVID-19

A fifth-grade student watches a lesson on her computer during school.

May 19, 2021 | By , and

What a difficult school year it has been for teachers. Thank you for your work on the front lines to ensure our children and youth’s health and education were sustained throughout this difficult year.

As Digital Promise team members who have researched and supported teachers’ use of educational technology, we want to recognize and celebrate your successes. After taking some time to reflect on your learnings, you’ll be ready to create a plan to sustain your technology practice in the school year to come. Below are some guiding questions to help you with your reflection.

Reflection: What was it like to get started with using new technologies in the wake of COVID-19?

Every teacher’s starting point with technology and distance learning was different. Think back to the very first stages of having to use new hardware and/or software, and acknowledge how much you have accomplished:

  • How many new kinds of hardware and software did you quickly have to learn how to use because of COVID-19?
  • What was it like to have to learn new technology skills under uncertainty and pressure? What are you most proud of?
  • What did you learn about safety and equitable access to technology?

Reflection: What was it like for you and your students to teach and learn every day using technology?

With an abundance of digital learning resources readily available, knowing where to begin, then making a selection, can seem daunting. Teachers we have spoken with about instructional technology advise starting with the basics. What were “the basics” for you? Maybe this was focusing on the technology tool to best deliver instruction or identifying the specific digital learning resource to utilize with your students. With the basics covered, assessing your technology readiness and soliciting feedback on your students’ experiences can be an informative next step:

  • How did you select the technologies and digital learning resources? To what extent did these meet the needs of your specific students and benefit their learning? What did your students share about their experiences using the technology?
  • How did you use technology to support curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment?
  • How—and how well—did you and your students practice self-care throughout the pandemic, including around technology use?
  • What barriers did you encounter that may have impeded equitable access and use for your students? In what ways were you able to attend to and/or overcome these?

Checklists and rubrics can provide a helpful starting point for you to self-assess where you are in terms of your technology integration readiness. For instance, Michigan Virtual developed a teacher continuity readiness checklist as a tool that teachers can use and offers resource recommendations. Consider seeking out recommendations from a district/school leader, instructional coach, or other teachers. Videos like this one on what technology tools to use or this one on supporting students’ social and emotional learning can inspire you to think about what you want to continue into the next year. To help center students’ experiences in this process, check out these activity ideas to gain insights from your students.

Reflection: How can you keep your learning going?

Technology integration into your classroom is an ongoing process of refinement and improvement. After becoming comfortable with an initial transition to teaching with technology, teachers may continue to recognize opportunities for more powerful learning with technology. Some questions to consider in this part of the journey are:

  • Where are my next areas for exploration and improvement?
  • How can I leverage technology to support students to
      • learn curricular content and skills more deeply?
      • feel more joy during their learning?
      • gain 21st-century skills and habits of mind that are essential for their well-being?
      • get to know me and each other better?
  • What are technology-integrated lessons that are responsive to students’ beliefs, values, and cultures?

Frameworks for educational technology may be useful for identifying your areas of strength and next steps. Most frameworks call for teachers to eventually use technology for purposes beyond facilitating classroom logistics and presentation of new facts. For example, the T3 Framework anticipates educational technology might initially be used for automation and consumption (e.g., instructional videos, learning games), and eventually involve uses that involve inquiry design and/or social entrepreneurship.

Next Steps:

  • Learn more about some commonly used frameworks and standards on educational technology (e.g., SAMR, T3, TPACK, UNESCO ICT, Triple E, ISTE), linked here.
  • Learn more about the principles of Powerful Learning, to provide opportunities for students to deeply engage in their learning while using technology in ways that contribute to closing the Digital Learning Gap.
  • Plan to earn micro-credentials for some skills you learned this year (and see this list for a subset that might be most relevant for demonstrating what you learned through distance learning).
  • Confer with professional learning communities or even start one yourself, sync up with an instructional coach, or attend workshops being offered like these from ISTE.
  • Contribute to creating school/district policies and procedures for online learning that help avoid “5 traps that will kill online learning.”
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