Teachers Should Increase Their Tech SWAG
SWAG – Summer Workshops Allowing for Growth
by William Jackson, M.Ed.
STEAM Educator and Adjunct Professor at
Edward Waters College
As a STEAM educator in an elementary school and
adjunct professor teaching Educational Technology
in the Education Department at an HBCU. The summer
months for educators are a great opportunity for educators
to get their SWAG on. The access to and implementation
of instructional technology tools for educators across the
country is growing.
State and national standards are requiring educators to
possess proficiency on levels that encourage and even
demand instructional engagement and increasing of
assessment scores in key academic areas of learning
for students. Access to educational resources have grown
tremendously even influencing the diminishing of printing
books for schools.
Student’s tech skills in some cases are far better than
educators from the perspective of open engagement,
application to everyday life and even communication
abilities with Social Media platforms and Apps. Educators
are learning that their skills and applying technology in
higher order and critical thinking skills are sometimes
behind their students so professional development
access is important. Teachers cannot afford to joke
that their students are smarter than them when it
comes to applying technology. Teachers must become
facilitators of technology to engage real world learning
in their students. Technology is a tool to direct and guide
learning so teachers must plan efficiently and
collaborate with each other on best practices and
Summer has transitioned as a time for educators to ramp-up
their skill-sets and knowledge, there is minimal time for
idleness because technology does not stop nor diminish
during summer breaks. Over the past five years teachers
have learned that digital technologies have become essential
to their instructional design and professionalization.
The use of the internet, mobile devices, social media, projection
tools and even basic tech like DVD players, radio and
cassette players are still needed. The challenge that educators
are facing is equality and equitability of technology access
because of budgets, administrative priorities and the social
economic status of students. Economics have made new challenges
to teachers themselves, it is a challenge for educators to
use new and developing technologies if they cannot afford
to purchase or even rent to learn how to apply in their
classrooms. There are educators across this country that
cannot even afford Internet access at home. Single parenting
has its challenges even for educators that teach in schools then
must facilitate learning with their own children.
School and district budgets need to be adjusted so
teachers have the chance to take technologies home during
vacations and breaks to become familiar and comfortable
with the nuances and how to apply new tools. School districts
need to provide additional discounts for educators to purchase
hardware/software and even Internet access.
A Pew Internet survey from 2012 showed from interviewing
educators and students across the country, teachers and
students talk about the different ways that technology affects
the learning environment.
Technologies like the internet, search engines, social
media, and wireless devices like cell phones, tablets and
even watches influences digital technology exposure.
These are shaping students’ research, writing, mathematics,
higher order and critical thinking skills..
The past five years with aid from the federal government
in grants, non-profit organization resources, PTA’s and even
the military volunteering resources schools have been
impacted and teachers are influenced in their classrooms.
Some of the information gained from the Pew survey shows
teachers share the internet has a “major impact” on their ability
to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching.
The internet has made it faster and more efficient at access
information and resources to implement and understand standards.
The internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas
with other teachers and learning that the best professional
development is when educators and administrator collaborate
with each other.
Social Media on the internet has a “major impact” on teachers’
ability to interact with parents that are hard to reach by regular
phone calls. Social Media allows for a dynamic and interactive
way to connect and share important information about child learning
and classroom behaviors.
Administrators who at one time discouraged the use of Social Media
are now transitioning to providing workshops and professional
development to help educators use this valuable tool to guide student
behaviors and encourage students rising to classroom expectations
for success through involvement and interactivity. The discouragement
of inappropriate behaviors and complacency of classroom management
can be addressed by communication with parents. Students must
understand that the learning environment is to prepare them
for career success.
Technology does not discriminate against the diversity of the
nation’s classrooms, but economics does have an effect on access
to technologies that students need to become prepared for future
educational opportunities in higher and vocational education.
Teachers of lower income students face serious challenges in
helping students understand how productivity is influenced when
these students do not have access at home or in their local libraries
or community centers. Schools must be the hub or conduit for
technology proficiency not just for educators whose career is to
teach, but to provide access to students and their families.
Teachers of low performing schools and that work with At-Risk
students, over-age students and in poverty areas are experiencing
obsolete or minimal technology. In some cases equitability and
equality are not present. Parents in lower social economic
environments do not know what questions to ask because of their
limited educational abilities and lack to exposure also.
Educational and achievement gaps are present because the access
to not only technology is limited, but exposure to successful mentors,
role models and professionals are limited. Teachers understand
that their students are “behind the curve,” so use whatever is
available to teach. In the Pew survey teachers of the lowest income
students realize students’ lack of access to digital technologies is
a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into
Educators can benefit tremendously when students in their
classrooms are exposed to diverse technologies, teachers are
confident in their uses to teach new concepts and parents understand
they play a valuable part by encouraging their children in
areas like STEM, STREAM, and STEAM.
Educators are sometimes divided by generations, each
generation of educators embrace technologies differently,
the uniformity of the educational process is important so
trainings and preparedness is important no matter what year
or years of experience. Those teachers that are reluctant to
embrace technologies will find it hard to remain proficient
when teacher assessments are not just evaluating knowledge of
content, but how to integrate technology to engage their students.
In conclusion the growth and advancement of technology can
be seen in multiple areas. Just as standards, benchmarks and
assessments change, technologies change in adapting to
usage, integration and application. Mobile technologies are
becoming central to the learning process; students use their
cell phones, tablets and other devices. The BYOD “bring your
own device” is becoming standard in the classroom. E-readers,
tablets and laptops are in classrooms even for early learning
students from 3 and 4 year olds, so their learning curve will
be higher and advancing at a faster pace.
Teachers must take advantage of summer breaks to increase
their tech SWAG. To be prepared for the increase of technological
devices that will prepare students in diverse career fields that
have not even been created yet because of the influence of