Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest Post: The Cornerstone for Teachers

Angela Watson of was a classroom teacher for eleven years, and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City.

Do you hold your breath each time you turn on your classroom computers, hoping they'll start up and the wifi will work?

Do you dread the moment your turn on your LCD projector and realize the bulb is out (since the school has no money to replace it)?

 Have you sighed in frustration when a perfectly planned lesson has to be scrapped because the district blocks the website you need?

I think every teacher who tried to integrate technology has experienced these kinds of things. The concerns are legitimate: every additional piece of technology integrated into a lesson is another opportunity for something to go wrong, and often we're too busy playing Whack-A-Mole with the other problems in the classroom to dredge up the energy to add another variable to the mix. The same thing happens to me as an instructional technology coach. I used to get embarrassed when doing professional development and something would invariably go wrong. I’d apologize for not knowing how to work a finicky laptop or having the wifi drop in the middle of a session, assuming everyone thought I was an idiot who had no business advising other people on how to use technology when clearly I couldn’t even get a Promethean board to display properly. Then I realized teachers didn’t think it was ME wasting their time; they thought it was the technology itself. They had given up on trying to make it work, and my failure just reconfirmed their perception that technology is a huge pain that's not worth using.

That’s when I shifted my outlook: I embrace the tech failure. Expect it. Plan for it. Take away its power to catch me off guard. Nothing works right 100% of the time. If you allow yourself to get irritated over technology mishaps, you’re either going to be frustrated all the time, or stop using it. Number two would be a tragedy, because once you get past the learning curve or tech glitch, the stuff that happens is powerful. Technology can connect students with people, ideas, and information all over the world in mind-boggling ways. It can deepen their understanding of important concepts and give them authentic opportunities to practice skills that we can’t possible replicate otherwise within our four walls. It is ubiquitous and cannot be ignored.

Remind yourself of the power of technology so you’ll be able to summon the energy to give it another shot. Have a back-up plan, and make it a good one so you’re not so annoyed about having to drop your lesson. You can prepare a couple of general activities that can be used anytime throughout the school year when your regular lesson is cut short. Assign a few tech-savvy kids to be your in-classroom IT support; they can help troubleshoot the machines and research solutions. Use your tech problems to model problem solving for the kids and be an example of how to respond when life doesn’t go your way–you’ll be equipping them to handle their own tech problems and respond with resiliency and determination in the face of setbacks. When our students encounter something that is difficult or frustrating, we encourage them to push through it. We tell them keep practicing, keep problem-solving, and eventually their efforts will be worth it. It’s much more fun for us to play the role of “expert” in the classroom and not place ourselves in a position where we, too, have to keep working on something that’s hard for us.

Technology mishaps keep us humble; they force us to stay in the position of learner. And THAT, if nothing else about tech failure, is a good thing.

-- Angela Watson

The Awakened Devotional Study Guide for Christian Educators

Angela has offered to give away a copy of either or both of these books to one reader of Kleinspiration!

Here's how the contest works:  

Simply leave a comment below sharing a connection you had with Angela's guest post.  Winners will be selected this Thursday via  Be sure to check back Thursday evening to see if you won!  I'll post the winner on the Kleinspiration Facebook page, too.

You can have the print version or eReader (ePUB or MOBI for Kindle). 

Awakened provides simple steps to help you feel peaceful and energized no matter what’s happening around you. Drawing upon principles of stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, spiritual truths, and personal experiences, Awakened helps you develop thought habits that produce an unshakeable sense of contentment, motivation, and purpose. Learn how to renew your mind and take a fresh approach to the challenges of teaching!        

The Awakened Devotional Study Guide for Christian Educators is the latest release (July 2012)! This workbook is designed to deepen Christian teachers’ understanding of the principles in Awakened, elaborating on what the Bible has to say about renewing our minds. For each Awakened chapter, this guide provides an opening reflection, devotion, further scripture reading, application questions, “to do” challenge, and a prayer that invites God to help you in applying the principles to your life. Click here to get a special discount on both books together.

Congrats # 3 - Marie Claire Please contact me at: 


  1. hi!! great post.. i dont use the computer that much with my kids (their 6) but i know whats it like to have something go wrong...i get so overwhelmed with the computer that i tend to just give up on it and move on to something else...but we should def try to push through next time if it happens again...we know what to do =)
    Just Wild About Teaching

  2. Ah, mindset stuff . . . LOVE it! And perfect timing for me since I ventured into today to get ready for my keynote next month . . . embracing the possibility of techno-glitches will REALLY help me! Thanks Angela (and Erin!).

    The Corner On Character

  3. I remember my first year in a particular school district...they only used Macs, and I had no clue how to use one! My 2nd and 3rd graders were excellent teachers! And I've had a student "techie" ever since! It's definitely easy to get frustrated. Thanks for the reminder to model how to handle those moments!

  4. I really love using technology in my classroom. But you are right there will always be something that goes wrong and it is usually when the admin comes in to observe your technology lesson. Once you have had several problems, the kids and you just go with the flow. That is why teachers are such flexible people, we just shrug our shoulders and say "oh, well, let's try it this way instead and see how it goes."

  5. I am the one that always has to give the technology PD at my school and there is always a hiccup of some kind. I hate it! Having a back up plan has been a life saver more than once. Great post, Angela. My favorite part: "Technology mishaps keep us humble; they force us to stay in the position of learner. And THAT, if nothing else about tech failure, is a good thing."

    Thinking Out Loud

  6. I enjoy technology in the classroom, but those unfortunate hiccups can be frustrating. I like the idea of allowing "techy" students to help with problem solving and forcing ourselves to be in the "position of learner". Thanks for sharing, Angela!

  7. This post really brought back memories! This year it seemed like every afternoon for Science when I would have planned to play a video from a streaming site that our school had a subscription to it wouldn't load. The kids were very patient at first but as the school year went on they began to offer suggestions as to how I could "fix" the problem. It would frustrate me so bad at first that it always happened during Science time but as the kids began to offer solutions I had to remind myself that I needed to set the tone and be a role model for them. Technology can always give you a headache but its good to be flexible and improvise!

  8. I love technology too. You just have to flexible - things go wrong all the time - not just with technology. I make sure to laugh about glitches with my students and just move on or use an alternative. This past year I always had trouble with my SMARTboard. My kids thought it was so funny when one of my students quipped that our SMARTboard was pretty dumb. It became our running joke. :)

  9. I love being able to have technology in my classroom but I agree that you have to have flexibility built in. I remember being observed for my formal observation and my SMARTboard went out on me. I had to quickly move to a different plan without my 6th graders knowing that anything was wrong. It went smoothly and I didn't let it get me down.

  10. I'm tech-savvy but I'm moving from a school with very little technology to one that hit the jackpot. I've got a steep learning curve ahead!

  11. Wonderful post! I have a Smartboard and other technology in the classroom, but at first I was too intimidated to use it regularly. I have learned that just like everything else, have a plan b. My students and intern last year new that and one day a student ( third grade) asked, what if plan b doesn't work? I told him there are still 24 more letters in the alphabet. That broke any tension left when the technology failed for the rest of the year!

  12. As the curriculum chair I have been implementing a database for our curriculum mapping and and inventory of what is in each classroom. Oh boy did the whole part about the technology not working resonate. It took us a few times to realize we can't all be in the database at the same time.

    The kids often figure out what is going on when I use technology in the classroom long before I do.

  13. Hi Erin. I just sent you a msg via FB. Want to submit a comment for a chance
    to win Awakened but wasn't able to. Got lost when I was asked to select a
    profile. I don't have any of those as listed so it would not take my
    comment. I've had technology issues in the classroom and I think your site
    is just what I need. I plan to subscribe.

    Posting for: Sondra Stovall

  14. I related to the "Whack-the-Mole" moment. Just when you think you got everything together, something else goes wrong:-) We're lucky to have a wonderful IT person in our building! I'd love to win the devotional book...the best addition to my new school year!

  15. I try to use technology in my special education classroom throughout the year. Teaching in a private Christian sschool has it's limitations in terms of access to techological resources, but our administrator tries to provide us with the resources we need. We share a lot of technology and therefore it's not always accessible when we need it, therefore I always have a back-up plan for my lesson! This book would be a fantastic resource to help me in my daily activities at school...especially the stree management principle!!!! Please pick me!!!

  16. Using technology creates an ever-changing field to explore and understand. Flexibility and the willingness to TRY things (even though you might fear that you'll mess things up) can help one to keep up with it all. Great post - I will certainly refer to your ideas as I venture into new tech things this year.
    Thanks - & I'd LOVE to have either or both of the books!

  17. I believe I am a tech savvy teacher who tries to integrate technology with my students even though they are only in first grade. I really liked your idea for keeping extra activities to use in the event of a technology failure. I have had to jump to other things many times because of wifi issues or a local network failure. I would love to read your book and learn more about your strategies. This past school year I had my laptop monitor fail while in the midst of assessment. This was a very frustrating event. I still love to use technology in my classroom. I can't wait to learn more ways to do it!

  18. Hi there! Like Angela I am an instructional technology coach. I am often encouraging teachers to "embrace the changes" they are facing in the classroom especially as it relates to technology. What's been the key for them accomplishing that is having me there for support. I think when it comes to experiencing failure in any area of life it's so important to have support. Likewise God is always a support for us and challenges us to come to Him when we are weary and burdened and learn from Him. I like your book idea of connecting your role as educator to that of Christian. I will get the devotional even if I don't win because it soun great! Blessings to you!

  19. I love integrating technology into my classroom everyday! We are about to pilot BYOD and I am going to share this blog with my fellow teachers to help them embrace the failure!! Thank you do much for the post. :-)

  20. I have worked with technology for many years. I can't wait to use iPads this fall! Of course, we have the standard computers as well and board games (as backup!). Thanks for the guest post!
    Diane Bode

  21. I've definitely been there. I find that like Angela said, our students,love to help and they can often help fix the problem usually because they've seen another teacher with the same problem. It's always good to have a backup though. You just never know :)

  22. As a new instructional technology specialist with my district, I find this to be a very timely and accurate post. Can't wait to check out these books.