Teaching Old Dogs New Technology Tricks

by | Dec 16, 2019 | Tips & Tricks

By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder

Technology tricks reduce fear

Technology tricks can keep non-digital natives up to date. Don’t let fear hold you back from learning the technology you need for your classroom. Nike coined the phrase “Just Do It,” and that is my advice when it comes to teachers and technology.

Too often teachers uncomfortable with technology are afraid and worried about failing, so they put off learning new technology tht could really benefit their teaching. I have taught several years in a 100 percent 1:1 computer school. Because I teach journalism, my newspaper and yearbook students have been in that environment for years, but my other classes were still traditional. Let me just say, I never want to go back to the “old” way of teaching.

Now, before you think, I had extensive training (no, we received training two months after we received our first MacBooks) or I must have grown up with it, (no, I’ll just say it–I am 50+). So there really are no excuses beyond the usual, “I’ve never done it that way,” “It is too hard,” “I may mess something up,” “My students know more than me.”

Here are why those are not valid excuses.

“I’ve never done it that way.” 

I hope that every single year we can say, “I’ve never done it that way.” If we do not evolve as teachers and challenge ourselves we are doing a disservice to our students. They have done it that way and expect to move forward, not backward when they are in school. There are always things we can teach better or in a different way and technology use is preparing our students for the real world.

“It’s too hard.” 

I am not going to lie; some things are very challenging. However, you will never learn if you don’t try. I firmly believe I have to model for my students what I expect of them. For example, I started a blog a few years ago because it is going to be a class requirement for my students. Because I had never been on WordPress, I started an account and just messed around. Now I can navigate it fairly well, and have since created two more, including this one. Yes, it was slow going at first, but when I got stuck I was not afraid to ask for help. One of the best technology tips is to ask for help. It will save you time and headaches.

“I may mess something up.” 

You will, but who cares? We learn through failure.  That is what we tell our students, so we better believe it for ourselves. Students see right through a fraud. I think one of the wonderful aspects of using and learning technology with our students is that they learn it is okay to struggle. They should see our baby steps. Students need to know we don’t have all the answers. I keep my failures to share with my students as well.

“My students know more than me.” 

Yes, they do. Get over it. They are digital natives, and many of the things we struggle with, they do without thinking. That is NOT a bad thing. Another of the important technology tips is to embrace what you don’t know.

I LOVE to have students who can teach me, as well as the class. I am very upfront about what I don’t know when it comes to technology. So, do students have less respect for me? Do they care? My experience has been a resounding NO. They actually expect it. Sure, I know the subject content better, but they already know they know more about technology than me, so there is no reason for me to pretend.

As teachers we need to realize the empowerment we are giving a student when he/she can teach us something. I fortunately had two students who knew PhotoShop frontwards and backwards, while I know enough to do exactly what I need to do. Those students were my go-to sources for three years. They loved doing workshops for my beginning photojournalism students. Being the experts helped build their confidence and also improved their communication skills. It was a win-win situation for all of us.

I had another student who noticed me not using a shortcut in InDesign. She reached over, pushed something, and everything I needed was highlighted like magic. I yelled, “What did you just do? That is fantastic!!” She laughed and showed me the shortcut. I love that I have the kind of relationship with my students that they are comfortable teaching me as I teach them. That wouldn’t occur if I waited to introduce technology until I was an expert.

It may take us longer to learn, but the end result is worth the effort. So, don’t let excuses keep you from entering the technology world. The last of the technology tips is to challenge yourself to try something new with technology this year. “Just do it.”

(Article originally published Aug. 8, 2015 on jerrelljourneys.wordpress.com. Used by permission.)


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Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder


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