Teacher tech talk

The NYC-based TeachersCount organization has posted another in its long-running series of TeachersTopic interviews with members of the Teacher Leaders Network. The topic this time: Technology Integration and Assessment.

[Marshar] Despite the plain-vanilla  title, it’s a meaty, classroom-focused chat with Marsha Ratzel, a math and science teacher in the Blue Valley (KS) School District, who spent several years as a tech integration coach before returning to her middle grades classroom. Marsha not only talks about how she uses technology in her own daily teaching, she has ideas about how any teacher can add more tech-teaching strategies (and get more tech-teaching help) on a shoestring budget.

A couple of excerpts from the interview:

. . .(W)hen technology is taught simply to make sure they “know” an application, it doesn’t help much. Sure kids will love it. I guess it comes down to the question I ask myself….is the time I invest teaching how to use the technology worth the payoff kids get in learning this concept? If the answer is yes, then I use technology.

. . .Don’t just learn technology so you can say you’ve learned technology. Think about your “real life.” You don’t learn how to use some new gadget just for the fun of it (OK…maybe some of us do, but we’re geeks). You learn it because it makes your task or life better; it allows you to do things you couldn’t do before. It’s the same way in the classroom.

On the subject of educators who use new technology to do “the same old thing,” Marsha says:

. . .I don’t think this is unexpected. Most people have to hook new learning to things they already know. In fact, this might be the best way to get people to adopt new kinds of technology. What you hope is that once they have learned to use it to do the “old” things, they begin to realize that “they can” do the new technology and with that recognition, they are willing to venture beyond the familiar.

You may also enjoy Marsha’s teaching blog, Reflections of a Techie, where she’s liable to write about anything from item analysis of math tests, to the killer pace of institutionalized PLCs, to handy tools for “amping up kids’ thinking” in science and math — like Web 2.0 cartooning, wikis, screencasts or pictures of an old colored tile floor you found in Flickr. What’s great about Marsha’s blog is her absolute willingness to expose her missteps (click on the tag “lessons that didn’t work”) as well as her successes. The sense you get is of a teacher who’s always hungry to improve.

ALSO check out the TC TeachersTopic archives for other interesting interviews with accomplished TLN teachers on subjects ranging from teacher research and culturally engaged instruction to arts education and the secrets of successful professional learning communities.