Aiming for Just Short of Perfection

“Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.”**

One of the traps that teachers fall into when considering technology integration in the classroom is thinking they have to know everything about the product/process before presenting it to the kids. Logically, we know on a personal level that we will never master all there is to know about ANY topic. We don’t feel like we need to be math geniuses or Pulitzer prize winning writers to teach those subjects, but there is something about technology that makes us feel like we need to know it all BEFORE even beginning with our kids. Here are some reasons for this that I suspect are true:

  • Much of the technology we use is on the internet, which is a big scary place with naughty pictures and violent games. What if we do an image search and *gasp* something inappropriate pops up?
  • Parents are wary of classrooms that don’t look like the ones they grew up in. If we spend more time on the internet, which is currently seen as an entertainment (rather than education) medium, there will certainly be some explaining to do.
  • When it comes to technology, kids often know more than we do. Being a learner in our own classrooms is very humbling and something we’re not always ready for.

These are all reasons for implementation procrastination but the make really bad excuses. Yes, you will do a search and something bad will pop up. Use it as an opportunity to discuss internet safety and appropriate use. Yes, parents will have questions. They should. We should be ready with answers. If nothing else, invite the parents in to help. Let them see what their children are capable of.  And, listen because this is important, from now on kids will know more than we do about technology. They find clicking on a link as instinctual as dialing a phone or turning on the tap. It is just no big deal. Realizing this, and coming across the quotation above, was what I needed to give up perfection and aim for good enough.

Two weeks ago I attended the Learning 2.010 conference in Shanghai. Through that conference I learned about Prezi. Prezi is nothing but a tool but I knew it would be a presentation tool that third graders would have fun using. While I was in Shanghai, I made my first prezi so I would have something to share with my class from my trip.

Next up was our COETAIL face to face. Our task was to create a product that implemented what we know about visual literacy. I already had the Shanghai prezi, but I knew this would get the kids excited without teaching them anything. I decided to work on a How To Make a Prezi prezi for two reasons. First, so when I introduced this tool the kids would know a few basics. Second, because we are working on procedural (how to) writing and I thought it would be nice to share a sample of my writing. Here is what I came up with.

Visual literacy wise, this presentation is not the best example of what I have learned. I’ve seen a lot of presentations that blow both of these out of the water. But both of these presentations represent where I am now with this program. I could wait until I know more but would I be able to maintain my momentum? My interest? Would I even remember I had learned this program and be likely to practice it enough to become the expert I expect myself to be? Probably not.

Knowing this I decided this week to jump in the deep end and see if I could swim. It turns out even if I’m drowning I’m just good enough to keep my head above water, which means I’m still breathing. I showed my class first the Shanghai sample and then my how to. That was all they needed to get started. I gave them the job of figuring out how to type words, rotate and resize them, and connect them with a path. By last night my kids were voluntarily working on prezis for homework. Today I gave them more time to “play” and they are fully caught up with my skill set. What it took me several hours to get the hang of took them 60 minutes.

How many other learning opportunities am I keeping them from because I’m afraid of not knowing enough? Here’s the thing…from now on we will always be beginners. Just when we know how to do something well, something new will come along. Not knowing how to do everything in a room full of 8 year olds is an uncomfortable feeling but one I plan on getting used to. Let’s face it, we don’t need to be experts. The kids will do that for us.

**I stole this quotation from Akiko. As soon as I know where she got it from, I’ll let you know.

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