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Things I wish I learned as an undergraduate: Educational technology

I have made it to my fifth year of teaching, and I do not have the urge to leave the profession. It is weird for me to say this because data shows that approximately half of all 17% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching (s/o to @mpershan for finding current data from The Washington Post #statisticsproblems). So I guess I will change my opening statement to “…and I do not have the urge to leave the profession…yet.” All kidding aside, I have made it this far in my career with the tremendous support of my wife, family, friends, colleagues, and, of course, my wonderful students. But something that did not really help me all that much was my undergraduate teacher education program. Sorry to say, but while I learned a lot about theories of learning and educational philosophy, I did not really learn about what it would be like once I got into the profession. Granted, I got a sneak peak during observations and student teaching, but that was only one hundred hours and one semester.

To be honest, it is a little upsetting.

I feel shortchanged.

This is not me bashing my alma mater. This is me expressing my feelings about education programs in general. After many conversations with current teachers, newbies and seasoned vets, I have come to the conclusion that teacher preparation programs need to change. Plain and simple, they are not preparing future educators in many different ways.

I am going to start this series with a topic we did discuss in school:

technology!

Here are just a few things I wish I learned as an undergraduate related to educational technology:

  • TI Calculators are the greatest inventions since sliced bread not the only things students can use for calculating and graphing. Something I have been emphasizing recently is mental math.  I recently started class with Math Minutes, where students work on mental arithmetic for n-number of minutes. It makes me frustrated, but also makes me laugh, when I see students type 1×4 into their calculators. (Insert sigh) And do not get me started on graphing. Every math teacher needs to play with Desmos. I cannot express the amount of love I have for the Desmos Team. It is immeasurable. To be fair, Desmos was not live when I was an undergraduate. BUT I hope teacher preparation programs are introducing this to prospective math teachers right now. I will say the only thing TI has on Desmos is that their calculators are permitted on standardized tests.
  • Twitter is an evil social network that students use to follow Kim K. and Justin Bieber the best free professional development network…EVER. Where else can a teacher share their best practices with teachers on five other continents? Where else can a teacher learn about grading reform (#sblchat #ttog), building a healthy culture of learning (#COLchat), flipped classrooms (#flippedclass), math blogs (#MTBoS), and other math-ed related topics (#slowmathchat)? Twitter is also a phenomenal place to learn about in-person professional development opportunities. As a new teacher, it could be difficult finding PDs. I remember not knowing where to look for these opportunities outside of receiving snail mail offering workshops that did not pique my interest.
  • Cell phones will prohibit learning can be a valuable resource in the classroom. BYOD (bring your own device) schools are popping up more and more, and why not? There are free graphing calculator emulators for students who might not have access to a TI (wabbitemu), Desmos (another plug because yes), text/email reminding services (Remind), formative assessment tools (Kahoot, Socrative), and countless other free resources. There many other ways to use cell phones in the classroom, too. Think outside the box, then post it to Twitter and tag me (@mrgarychu); I’d love to hear steal what you do!
  • Smartboards are the future and will be in every classroom you will ever step foot in cool, but I have never used one…ever. All this talk about Smartboards is neat, but I have only seen them in the wild a few times in my career. More popular are tablets (iPads and Surface Pros). But as a teacher candidate, you cannot get too excited and assume you will have one in your classroom. Get comfortable writing with dry erase markers. Learn how to manage board space. Or just buy a tablet and use it in your classroom.
  • Technology is evil, and will be the end of mathematics as we know it has helped me realize that I am asking the wrong questions in my classroom. Calculators, solver apps, websites like Wolfram Alpha, they are all phenomenal tools to help solve problems worth solving. If I am asking thirty of the same type of questions that takes two hours to complete, it is pointless. Having these tools encourages me to think beyond skills, and pushes me to ask more meaningful questions. I am not discounting the importance of skills. I am emphasizing the importance of pushing our students to apply knowledge and skills.

Geez, rereading this makes it look like I am getting paid by these companies, but I am not…yet #insertlaughingemoji. In all seriousness, I have learned a lot about technology these past few years. A big shoutout to my colleagues and Twitter fam. You all have taught me so much.

What do you wish you learned about as an undergraduate in the field of educational technology? Do you have anything to add to this list? Feel free to comment and share!