Welcome back to the new school year! One thing that’s changed this year in our division is the “new” teacher evaluation implementation and one thing that has not changed is the time to do all that is expected of us and our students. Time crunch is one of our biggest challenges in today’s classroom, and unfortunately, we cannot create more of it when we run out.
Time, time, time….how do we manage it?
Technology is our friend, but as in any relationship, we have to manage our time with that friend. Here are some useful suggestions from Dr. David Cochran, President-elect of the New Jersey Association for Educational Technology and the New Jersey Affiliate Representative to the International Society for Technology in Education.
1) Keep the end in sight. We should make it clear in the beginning what we want students to know and be able to do by the end of their experience, so all learners will head for the same goal no matter which tools they use. Knowing where we are going can make all the difference as we create learning projects.
(2) Take a hard look at ourselves and the dynamics of our classroom to become aware of the ways we waste time. Is there down time between lessons? Does it take a long time to boot up the computers? If we take steps to eliminate wasted time, we can gain time to do something else. Some teachers ask students to help assess time wasters by keeping a list on a bulletin board or computer.
(3) Realize that we do not need to do everything with computers. We should use computers when they can do something better than we might do otherwise. It might be inefficient to take notes on a computer when they could be jotted on a piece of paper, but it might be very efficient to use a word processor to turn those notes into a story.
(4) Add to our repertoire over time. Each year we can add more and more lessons that involve technology. One year we might find good web sites for a project on how insects help farmers. The next year we can just check that the links are still live and spend time adding technology to another unit. Over time, we will have many technology experiences in our pool of resources, and we can choose which ones will work best in a given lesson.
(5) Understand that using technology is a front-loaded time consumer. The first time we do anything with a computer usually takes longer than we would like. The good news is that when we work out the details and save our lesson, it becomes a time efficient activity in the future. Knowing this, we can put more time in our budget for first-time activities, knowing that we will save time the next time we do the same activity.
(6) Recognize that more time does not mean more learning. Careful planning is critical for getting the most of the precious minutes we have. Sometimes doing less, but working more in depth with the skill or topic, is better for student long-term learning.
(7) Focus on what will be sustainable learning in any activity. There is much more information available than any of us could or should retain. What students need to know is how to find and process the information they need. Technology is the key to finding and processing information today.
(8) Set realistic goals and accomplish them incrementally. We must help students see how they can accomplish large goals by working toward them in smaller chunks. They can create that large multimedia project on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by planning all the parts and dividing the labor. This is a critical skill in today’s workplace.
(9) Try to combine subjects where possible. Schools are one of the few places where topics are found in isolation from each other. In the real world, things are interdisciplinary. Math, science and technology all come into play in bridge design and construction, and art, music, writing, performing, and technology intersect in the creation of a video production. Interdisciplinary projects that include technology often cover more standards than separate disciplinary coverage of the same topics.
(10) Feel reassured that the time we and our students spend learning to use technology is not time wasted. Technology is an integral part of the world outside of school. Learning to use the critical tools of our times is a valid and important use of time in school.
So, as we head into the 2012-2013 academic year, take a few minutes to create a “Pacing Guide” for your units that let you know in advance the technology you’ll need and the time it will take for this technology. The chart below is a good example of this idea.
|Unit Title: Sample Unit Action Plan|
Don’t panic! One step at a time and good time management will lead to a successful year for both you and your students.
Welcome back and happy teaching!