How does a teacher go about moving from her current practice, which may include some use of technology, to a practice that takes full advantage of the affordances of technology and leverages it to truly transform her teaching and her students’ learning?

1) Start by creating a CMS (Content Management System), a place to store resources and materials for your course. You may want to use Google Sites (if you are a GAFE school, for example), or Weebly, or Wikispaces, or any one of a dozen others. This will take a good long while to build into a meaningful course hub, a place where students can find all the resources - and more - that they need to excel. You will probably want to organize it by unit or theme or topic, and then post your handouts and presentations and links to other related resources online, as well as outlines and even exemplars. Over time, this site will become more valuable than any textbook. Give yourself one and a half to two years to fill it.

2) Use the LMS (Learning Management System) that your school uses or, if they don’t, choose one and start using it on your own. An LMS is your place to communicate with your students on a daily basis - posting assignments, handouts, presentations - whatever is going on right now in your class. Depending on the functionality you decide to use, you may have an online discussion forum, or allow students to hand in homework via this portal. Note that the LMS is not a place to store resources - that is the CMS - but instead a parallel universe to what is happening every day in your classroom. It is the place, for example, for a student who misses class to see what she needs to know. Some examples are Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, Moodle, and Haiku.

3) Set up a system to accept and return work online. The speed and efficiency of accepting work online cannot be matched by hard copies, which require the added step of printing and can get lost, and generally slow down the workflow. Work handed in online means you can get to it immediately (if you want to) and students can get it back as soon as you are done with it. It makes it easier to give feedback - essential for students to understand where and how they can improve - but also for students to correct and revise. If set up well, it also simplifies organization, as all student work is in one place and accessible. Make sure the feedback piece is in place as well.

4) Set up a system for students to contact you online, whether to arrange an appointment or to ask for clarification or help, or to say they won’t be in class the next day. This could be as straightforward as an email address you monitor.

5) Use forms - Google forms are great, though any similar product will do - to get a quick take on student understanding. Make it a practice to have students respond to a brief form - three or four questions should do - to indicate their understanding. Whether you do this at the end of class or after an assignment, you will get the results in real time and can know before class the following day where they are.

6) Start producing content - handouts, presentations, etc. - with the intention of posting them on your CMS for current and future student use. Standardize the way they look, make them attractive and professional, and create a clear system of organizing them so they are easy to find.

7) Start curating online resources both for yourself, your colleagues, and your students. Consider using a website like Diigo, as well as finding useful resources to go into an RSS feed reader. Provide access to your curated lists to students and colleagues.

Look for high quality OER (Open Educational Resources) to add to your course in your CMS. This is a great way to give students who can and want to do more the opportunity and the resources without taxing yourself. This can also be a way to facilitate differentiated teaching, by directing students to appropriate resources.

8) Reflect on and grow your PLN (Personal Learning Network). The Internet provides a wealth of resources and ease of access. Create Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest accounts, and find teachers who teach what you do and whom you can share with and learn from. Join groups of like-minded educators, participate in Twitter chats, and attend online webinars.

9) Facilitate student collaboration by making sure they have access to collaborative tools, and by giving them work that benefits from such collaboration. Make sure they understand how to collaborate, and give them a process and structure for doing so.

10) Encourage students to keep course notes and outlines online, in an Electronic Learning Notebook. You might consider giving them an outline - in the form of an online shared document - to start with. Have students share the notebook with you so that you can see that they are on track with their understanding, making this another aspect of formative assessment, but also allowing you to know when a student may need help.

11) Create student blogs to encourage more and better writing, and to facilitate peer-to-peer feedback. Don’t restrict what students write - a minimum of instruction is best here - and don’t grade the blogs. Let them write what they want, and ask other students to give the feedback via the commenting function that accompanies blogs.

12) Set up an online space for the course community - a mini social network. A Google + community is a great way to do this - free and easy. You can limit membership and let in only students and teachers, or invite classes from other schools. Encourage students to use this space to talk about the course and help each other, as well as share resources they find.

13) Consider having students create online portfolios, or ePortfolios, to store their best work. An ePortfolio may become a learning tool in and of itself, by having students reflect on their work as part of the portfolio, and even show and explain their process. Such a portfolio is also an efficient method of showing their work to prospective schools and employers. Google Sites, Weebly, Wix, and Wikispaces are all possible vehicles.

Use students’ best work as exemplars to put on your CMS. These will serve as models for future students, and thereby help raise the bar.

14) As you become more and more comfortable with the technology you are using, whenever you have a goal or a problem, ask yourself, “What tool might best help me/my students achieve this goal/solve this problem?” (Don’t try to find a way to use a tool just because it’s sexy. That just leads to using a bunch of tools without purpose.)

15) Finally, learn how to learn about new tools on your own, and how to resolve technology problems. There is a wealth of good quality resources online and freely available.

The goal, then, is to transform both your teaching and your students’ learning through the use of technology, to empower and enable you to do what you simply could not do before. To quote Chris Lehmann, the principal of Science Leadership Academy, “Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.”

Use the checklist to see where you are and to keep track of your progress.

Item

Not Yet

In Progress

There

CMS




LMS




Hand in work online




Online contact




Forms to assess understanding




Curating online resources




Produce content to put online




PLN




Facilitate student collaboration




Online notes




Blogs




Course online community




ePortfolio




Solve my own tech problems