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Survival Guide to Teaching the 21st Century Learner (Part 2)

From the desk of Alicia Swedberg

Now that you’ve had time to let the technology soak in, here are a few more tips that will save your sanity!
It is an interactive Web 2.0 World, so pack light.

Gone are the days of keeping up with the latest software installation discs. Software of today lives on the Internet in “The Cloud” where is can easily be accessed from any computer with a network connection. A computer without a network connection is not a 21st century learning machine.  Google Edu Apps and Web 2.0 tools such as Wix.com and Prezi.com are changing the world of presentations.  Students no longer want to create a linear one-dimensional PowerPoint. They want to make a flash website using Wix or a non-linear zooming presentation with Prezi. This way of processing and displaying information is how they think, learn, and communicate. As the teacher, the most important thing to remember is that you must let them use the tools that speak to them the loudest.  There are thousands of Web 2.0 tools, and it is okay to release yourself from the burden of knowing how to use every one of them. Your students will figure out the details.  As the educator, you just have to keep the endgame in sight and focus on the pedagogy.  With a lighter pack, digital natives of today can climb higher and farther. What summit do you want your students to reach?

Technology is the key to motivating and differentiating for the 21st Century learner.
When differentiating instruction for students and providing them with the best education possible, teachers often vary the process or product to meet specific learning needs. In our Web 2.0 world, this can be a natural process because learners can customize their experiences by choosing the tools they want to use, when and where to use them, and what the final product will be. Like choosing your own hiking trial, this project-based differentiated learning is rewarding and satisfying not only to the student but for the teacher as well. Don’t be afraid to veer from well traveled path of stand-up lectures and hours of student note taking. Take the path less traveled by having your students engage in self-selected projects and online portfolios. The results will amaze you.  Work smarter not harder and let the students do the bulk of the work, after all they are the ones learning.

Creating Graphics
Respect fear and conquer it.

Fear is the biggest roadblock to progress when integrating technology into the classroom. However, technology should not be feared, but embraced. Fear of technology has many facets- Fear of the students knowing more than the teacher, fear of having to learn everything on the Internet, or fear of setting the equipment on fire. There is a slim chance your computer is going to burst into flames if you use it the way it was intended. Do not be afraid to experiment with various combinations of hardware and software. In time, your confidence will grow. As confidence grows, fear recedes. Learn how to troubleshoot simple problems by trying things like checking connections and restarting the computer. If all else fails and your repair efforts are fruitless, make sure you know who to turn to for support, even if it is a student.

From the wagon wheel to the steam engine to the GPS device in your phone, technology has been helping explorers tame the wilderness for decades. And while the Internet, the digital world, the cloud, or “cyberspace” may sound intimidating, the technology already being integrated into your school system is there to help you and your students take this journey together. Remember these survival tips and begin your own adventure with technology on your side.  It lights your path, it guides you through the rough waters, and helps calm your fears, for with technology comes access to information; access to information is power, and ultimately we seek to empower those future explorers of the world.

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