How Teachers Discover New EdTech

To continue on in the theme of edtech in the classroom, we wanted to find out about how teachers are discovering edtech tools and how they are choosing the ones to use. We turned to some teachers who were experimenting with technology in the classroom to see where they turned to as their trusted sources.

Vicki Davis is a Google Certified Teacher, author of two books, and blogger of CoolCatTeacher.com. She says that social media is the main resource for teachers to find out about what’s going on with new edtech. This doesn’t mean listening to companies talk about their products, but other teachers.

She said that before she tries anything, she will see what other teachers have to say about it. “Educators who care, share. So when we find something we love we kind of have a professional responsibility to share that with others.” This saves them time, which is a good thing because teachers don’t have a lot of it.

Davis says Twitter has turned out to be a kind of hub for educators. And she’s right. According to an account executive at Twitter, “Out of the 1/2 billion tweets that post every day, 4.2 million are related to education.”

Beyond Twitter, Davis said many teachers use Feedly and Netvibes to keep up to date with edtech news. Davis hosts a radio show called Every Classroom Matters and said she’ll listen to a lot of the other edchat and edtech shows. Again she notes convenience with her research. The short shows of the radio allow her to listen while in the car.

Vicki says most teachers aren’t thinking tool-centric but focusing more on the content. She recalls a picture she received from a colleague that summed this up. “She got a fantastic picture of three boys all doing the same thing and they all have a different app up on their iPad, and they’re first graders,” she said. This method focuses on student choice. For example, Davis said most teachers will ask students to do a presentation, but it’s up to them whether they want to use Keynote, Haiku Deck, PowerPoint, or Prezi.

This means individual tools and products don’t influence teachers much. Davis says teachers are actually looking at trends. “I think most of us educators say, ‘okay, this is the next overarching, big-picture trend that I want to incorporate into the classroom,’ and then we start picking the tools based upon word of mouth.” Recently, Vicki read about Makerspaces fitting best with how students learn and research. She started pursuing what would make it a rich learning environment, including software, hardware, and best practices.

Donnie Piercey, a Technology Integration Specialist and 5th Grade Teacher for Eminence Independent Schools, also discovers many edtech tools through Twitter. In fact, Piercey created his own hashtag, #KyEdChat, for educators in Kentucky to share new ideas.

“It started with Twitter hashtags, then I stumbled upon Google Plus and there you get to pick up on some new ideas, new apps, new releases, new changes. Also, I follow a lot of blogs,” said Piercey.

When it comes to what Piercey is looking for in edtech, he said he first looks at ease of use. “I’m looking for things that allow my students to create easily. I teach elementary school so I don’t want to use an app that requires more time to teach how to use it, than it does actually getting them to play around with it and create something.”

Like Davis, Piercey is also a Google Certified Teacher. Piercey said it’s a great connection to other teachers who love talking about using technology in the classroom and keeping up with what’s new. “The biggest advantage is being put in that network with over 1,000 other Google Certified Teachers from around the world—edtech teachers who kind of think along the same lines as you do. So, if I have an idea or a question, I can throw that out there to some of my friends and they can help me figure out a new way I can use an app or tool to help better my students’ learning.”

Google Certified Teachers are invited to conferences to learn about new Google education tools, but there are many conferences that Davis and Piercey go to in order to talk to other teachers and learn about the up-and-coming technology. Piercey said the sessions are a great tool, but even being able to talk to presenters and designers after the session is enlightening.

Ultimately, Twitter remains to be the biggest resource for teachers, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that technology is aiding in the discovery of technology. For Davis this is what it’s really all about. “Yes, technology has changed things, but it’s more the people we connect with through the technology,” she said. “It’s about 21st century connections, how we are working with other people and co-creating in meaningful ways. That’s the biggest change for my classroom.”

 Photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it

Michelle Harven

Michelle Harven

Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.