Featured #MSUrbanSTEM Sustainability Fellow: Michael Kosko

Sustainability Fellow: Michael Kosko

Bio: Michael Kosko is STEM Initiatives Manager for Chicago Public Schools and a doctoral students in Urban Education Leadership at University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and an educator collaborator for Science Friday. In his free time he enjoys competing in triathlons, gardening, and exploring Chicago. He tweets about his work and ideas from @MrKosko and blogs from michaelkosko.com.

We Are All Technology Teachers

A few months ago I was leading a professional development for teachers on ways to support student collaboration via G Suite. On the feedback form at the end of the session one of the participants wrote, “I see how this is useful, but am I a science teacher or am I a technology teacher?” I admit this question gave me pause. Who is responsible for teaching technology? Just like like how every teacher is responsible for teaching literacy, given our technology-infused world I would argue that every teacher should be a technology teacher.

Two years ago when my niece was three years old she and her parents came over to our house.  The TV was on and she immediately went us to the screen and tried to swipe it like you would with a tablet, and became increasingly frustrated when the image didn’t change with each swipe.  As digital natives, our students are entering our classrooms with similar expectations for technology integration that will not be met by attending a class in a computer lab once or twice per week.  Additionally, in the age of fake news and cyberbullying it is our responsibility as educators – no matter our subject or grade level –  to model digital citizenship for our students and the beautiful ways that technology can enhance our disciplines.

Being a technology teacher doesn’t mean that your classroom has to be 1:1 with computers or tablets. If you have a limited number of devices your students can work in small groups or you can establish a bring your own device (BYOD) norm where students bring their own tablets, laptops, or smartphones. There is so much that you can do even with just cell phones in your classroom! For younger students or students without their own technology there are plenty of analog coding activities that you can find online and numerous ways to integrate technological thinking in your classroom. For example, students can design apps using paper and markers to show the different screens or create simple robots like bristlebots or scribble bots.

Starting to think of yourself as a technology teacher can be frightening, especially if your discipline and area of expertise might not overlap with technology as easily as science or engineering courses traditionally do.  I have three pieces of advice for anyone that finds themselves in this position:

  • First, look for opportunities to connect with other technology-minded teachers in your school and create your own professional learning community (PLC) that bridges disciplines and grade.
  • Second, join professional learning networks (PLNs) outside of your school. Look to see if your area has a Google Educators Group (GEG) or a local International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) affiliate. Your PLN can even be digital! Twitter has been one of the most powerful communities I have joined.
  • Third and possibly the most important, talk to your students. Don’t be afraid to ask your students for technology help and give them opportunities to practice agency in selecting digital tools to meet the tasks that your present to them in class.

We are all technology teachers. Our students need us to be.