Posted in 21st Century Learning, 21st Century teaching, collaboration, digital learning, professional development

25 Years in Ed Tech — 25 Lessons Learned!

After serving at a school for 33 years, more than 25 or them as an educational technology faculty member, I am departing in a few weeks and moving on to new experiences. This year I’ve had plenty of time to think about my service on an edtech faculty team, ruminating on my rich experiences. I’ve helped teachers and students use technology in ways that help them grow into more effective and reflective learners, though in truth, I’ve probably learned far more than I’ve helped others learn.

While I will miss the daily joys and the challenges of 21st Century school life, I expect to continue supporting people — students, parents, family, friends, and anyone else — as they discover more about living and learning in a digital  world  with social media, apps, the latest devices, and whatever else that appears on the edtech horizon. Of course, I’ll keep blogging right here at

So below are 25 observations (lessons learned) that grow out of my 25 years of teaching and learning with educational technology.

Me in the cherry picker so  we can film an assembly from a good angle.
Me in the cherry picker so we can film an assembly from a good angle.

1. The curriculum and student learning are at the core of our work. The mission is to figure out how to help teachers learn new skills so they can help students learn more effectively and productively.

2. Collaborating with teachers on new technology projects in their classrooms is essential and best way to help them learn. Communicating with those teachers is paramount.

3. We need administrators to evaluate faculty members regularly, assessing how teachers infuse technology into the curriculum and how these teachers expand their skills over time.

4. The doors to educational technology offices should be open whenever possible. People who are tentative or nervous about educational technology see a closed doors as a barrier.

5. Educators who dislike technology will always be around, and they will be almost any age so avoid comments that reflect ageism.

6. Educational technology faculty members will often be asked to help when an assembly includes technical bells and whistles, no matter how may times we’ve demonstrated how things work. Sometimes we end up giving assistance in the strangest places. Check out my cherry picker picture above.

Time spiral7. Time will always be a wild card issue in a school. Whether we work with people on a project, collaborate from a distance, teach a new skill, or merely sit down to talk, time — specifically the lack of it — will always come up.

8. Technical assistance is a type of professional development. Explaining or demystifying a problem is critical and most teachers learn from our explanations. With some teachers it’s necessary to teach, repeat, and repeat again (and then repeat the three steps again).

9. When a tech person solves a problem and a colleague mentions the magic wand metaphor, point out that it’s simply a task to learn just like any other professional development activity. No edtech faculty member should even make the magic wand statement. It’s not about magic wands — it’s about learning.

10. The best edtech faculty members have extended experience teaching in some kind of classroom. It doesn’t have to be K-12. but it is good if it is teaching. Most of us can’t be as effective with lesson plans and curricular matters if we haven’t spent a good deal of time creating those curricular lesson plans using them to help people learn.

11. Administrators who use technology to learn new things and keep using it to learn more new things are the best models for teachers. Administrators who use the resources of the connected world to network with colleagues at other schools are even better models. This also means that they have more significant ideas about 21st good Century professional development.

12. No matter how good a school is, it’s important to learn from people at other schools. Be intentional about connecting and collaborating with colleagues from outside your institution.

13. The school librarians can sometimes be educational technology faculty members in disguise. Collaborate with them, help them, ask them for their assistance, and take seriously any librarian’s suggestion or idea.

14. Rolling eyes and talking sarcastically about colleagues who are less technologically able is never permitted even thought sometimes it is tempting and we may occasionally break this rule. See item #8 above.

This is the book I am currently reading.
This is the book I am currently reading.

15. Understand child development and social-emotional growth at various stages. Know what is appropriate — and what is not — for each grade level. Remember, also, that the technical and social media world is often at odds with developmental and learning best practices.

16. Every summer spend some time learning one really challenging new skill — after all, we ask students to do it on a daily basis. During the school year read a range of books about educational technology, the connected world, student learning, diversity, and equality of access. Check out the page of my good reads right here on the blog.

17. Join and participate in at least one professional group. Attend at least one conference each year.

18. Accept change. Devices and the connected world continually evolve in unexpected ways so it may be necessary to revise — continually — how we use educational technology in the classroom.  Also, be comfortable with never feeling completely caught up with the changes.

19. Too many meetings will always be scheduled. See item # 7.

20. Digital citizenship should be taught by teachers in the classroom and by edtech faculty. Oh and by parents. Yet, the world changes too quickly for all of the pertinent information to be integrated into every classroom — there is always more to teach.

21. Distinguishing online database searches from Google searches is a critical concept for students and teachers. Students will become far better searchers and the librarians will be eternally grateful.

22. Digital world parents need digital world support. Communicating regularly with parents helps them learn more about technology and digital life, and this builds connected world relationships that are useful when big or little digital world problems occur.

23. Students who know a lot more technology than their teachers will always be around, but most students are not adept at using technology in ways that significantly expand their learning.

24. Be aware, though, that students often have different points of reference than their teachers.

25. We can’t innovate just for the sake of innovation. Most of the time we need begin by helping educators craft the innovative ideas, learning methods, and devices so they fit into the curriculum now and expand them or change the curriculum later.

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