Sunday, March 6, 2011

How did you learn that?

I get asked frequently how I obtained my computer skills and a passion for integrating technology and learning.

This is not something that I was taught in high school, I am not a part of the digital native generation (if there even is one?!?).  In high school we had a computer lab that was used for typing.  At home we had a computer that we used for word processing and playing Dig Dug.

While attending the University of Lethbridge I got my first glimpse of the Internet.  I used it for nothing more than email and those very basic chat rooms.

This was also the time when Darcy and I bought our first computer, for gaming!

It wasn't until I attended the University of Alberta that I truly had a computer experience.  To graduate with a B. Ed you had to pass a computer class that met the ICT outcomes for Grade 6.  Basically use Excel formulas and create a multi-linked web page.  Still nothing that was horribly exciting!

In my last summer session I took a elective around technology integration and math.  It was this course and the instructor, Barb Brown who I have recently reconnected with via Twitter, that made me realize the power of technology for student engagement, project based learning and generally making my life easier.  Although not required, I created an online digital portfolio of my projects. This included things like Math Jeopardy, Webquest and web pages with links.

Learned shared by klmontgomery Creative Commons
I learned very quickly that I did not like being up at the front of the classroom.  That students doing and creating was far more effective than listening and sitting and that technology was just one of the tools that I had in my arsenal to make this happen.

When I started working at Peace Wapiti, 2001, my classroom had an old Mac computer, teachers could have email address if they requested them and the entire staff shared 2 PC's in the staffroom to do report cards on. So, I moved the LCD projector into my classroom, booked the computer lab every chance I got and worked with what I had.  My first technology forays included mostly using the Microsoft Office for students to create Power Points, brochures and word processing.  Every once in awhile we fought the dial up Internet to try something online, at least until we were asked by the office to get off because they had something to do.

Just when I thought I was starting to get my techno-groove and handle classroom management effectively, I had babies.  Two in a row and I felt like I was away from the classroom for a decade as things had changed so quickly.  My home computers were used for this.

Screen time at a very, very early age!
When I returned from my maternity leave it seemed like the whole world had changed.  PWSD had Moodle, whatever that was, there were all these online tools and my Microsoft Office activities were just not cutting it anymore.  However, I persevered because I could see the engagement and excitement in my students and how teaching was just easier this way.  I was more than willing to work late into the night for this, not so much for report cards!

He will hate this picture!
Through it all I had a little something extra and I reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers.  In it he examines factors that contribute to success.  The first half of the book he talks about opportunity, in my case I had the opportunity to work with technology that worked.  I have live in tech support who patiently walks me through things again and again and again, keeps things running and out of my hands if I don't need to know and is my sounding board and inquisitor who challenges me to keep learning.

In the end it comes down to an inspiring teacher, tons of support and doing what is right for students that continues to keep me passionate about learning.

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