As a teacher, my New Year's Resolution often centers around seeking knowledge that will make me a better teacher. 'New Year's Resolution' is defined as a promise or decision made at the beginning of the year to accomplish a personal goal. As teachers, each year we determine a goal (or multiple goals) and create a professional growth plan - basically a 'new school year resolution'. Since we are now half way through the school year and we are thinking about New Year's resolutions, this is a perfect time to reflect on our professional resolutions and to actively make them happen!
As Teachers of the Visually Impaired or Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists in the 21st Century classroom, our professional goals frequently focus on learning new tech or staying current with tech. With that in mind, what is YOUR New Year's Tech Resolution? Need help choosing an appropriate tech goal?
I recently read an article about how to improve the success rate of a New Year's Resolution.
- The first and most crucial thing is to pick a goal that you are truly committed to. Basically, something that you want to do, not something you should do. As teachers, we are always more motivated to learn functional things such as lessons/activities that we can use immediately with students. Often, the our tech goal is measured by how excited and how successful our student is when the new tech skill is applied in a lesson.
- A proven success strategy is to make two resolutions that work in harmony. These related 'co-action' goals should support one another. Example: If your tech goal is to learn how to teach Bluetooth keyboard commands for an iPad running VoiceOver and your co-action goal is to connect with TVIs and tech users. Interacting with a community of TVIs, parents, students and users of assistive technology will provide the foundation in which to build your tech knowledge. Join (and interact with!) a Facebook group for Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired and/or a Facebook group for iPhone and iPad Apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Find resources on the Paths to Technology website and subscribe to the Paths to Technology Newsletter. Sign up for a class or attend a workshop. Find a mentor!
- The third success strategy is to either choose a 'doable' goal and/or be able to break down the goal into bite-size chunks. Example: Your chosen goal is, "To become proficient in all assistive technology used by students with visual impairments". Hmm, you must be an over-acheiver or are about to complete your CATIS certificiation! For the rest of us, that tech goal would be overwhelming! Let's take a closer look at your students current tech needs, YOUR current tech skills, choose a realistic tech goal, and then break that goal into smaller pieces.
Choosing Co-Action Tech Goals
Start by looking at your current case load; pick a specific student who has a current tech need or who needs more tech skills to be as successful as his sighted peers. For academic students: keep in mind what devices/apps and tech skills that the student needs to be successful in future years. Remember, the student should be introduced to and fairly independent on the tech BEFORE he is expected to use the tech to complete tasks in his mainstream classrooms. When looking at tech skill goals, consider how tech savvy YOU are and create doable goals for you! If you are an early adaptor and/or proficient with all kinds of tech, then your goal can big expanded and inclue a range of devices and goals. If have no idea how to turn on a device, then your tech goal should be much more basic!
Example of a specific tech goal: You use an iPad and are familiar with VoiceOver gestures. Your student is also familiar with the iPad gestures and is learning keyboarding skills. Your student does not know Bluetooth keyboard commands. (Bluetooth keyboard commands will make your student significantly more efficient and Bluetooth keyboard commands will transfer to computer tech skills.) Your tech goal is to learn about Bluetooth keyboard commands (including how to teach these commands and how to embed these commands into functional activities for your student). To help you accomplish these goals - Co-Action tech goal - you will network with others who are using Bluetooth keyboard commands on an iPad through Facebook groups, online resources, and possibly take a class/workshop.
As you begin to work on this goal, you can break down the goal by activities to be accomplished and the specific Bluetooth keyboard commands needed for that specific activity. The activity might be to write and edit a document. The commands might be to navigate by line, word, character, select by line word, character, copy, paste and delete. You probably already know the commands for copy, paste and delete; so there are really only 6 new commands to learn to be able to write and edit a document using a Bluetooth keyboard! That is very doable! Now, find a youtube video, a post, etc. or better yet, connect with a user or another TVI who can help mentor!
Be sure to expand your knowledge to include more than just the actual commands. Look for teaching ideas and activities that use these commands. Also keep thinking one step ahead of your student's current goals! What comes next?
If you are comfortable with the device, maybe you are interested in tech goals of finding and learning new apps. The goal might be to find and implement 3 new apps for your CVI student, learn how to create accessible eBooks, or find and learn accessible math apps for a student transitioning for college. Maybe your tech goals are focused on learning how to make accessible digital materials and then showing your general education teachers how to create their own accessible materials. Your tech resolutions may be focused on making YOU more efficient with paperwork, progress monitoring, logs, etc. Do not forget your O&M-related tech goals! (FYI: Yes, there are multiple posts on Paths to Technology on all of these topics and more!)