Q&A: Ally Belden on continuing to innovate with technology in K-12 education

EDTECH: Why should teachers integrate educational technology into their classrooms and lessons?

Belden: I really believe that educational technology gives teachers the ability to be in multiple places at once. It is very difficult to consistently distinguish all levels of ability in schools. With educational technology, you can support struggling students while expanding their learning, whether that’s technology gathering and being with a struggling group, or the other way around. It gives you more flexibility in your classroom with what you can do and teach.

EDTECH: What inspired you to take educational technology tools that you found useful and start sharing them with other teachers?

Belden: I really think most technology tools are meaningful because we are connected to a new age of students. They are more creative. They enjoy technology, and with innovation, we want students to become more comfortable using these products. In the future, they might use Google, Microsoft, or other similar technologies, so incorporating that into the class really helps them with their skills.

I love helping other teachers because you can really increase your impact. If you give them a resource, you are really helping all these kids around the world, without actually meeting them. My really passion is kids and helping them learn because some of my family are really struggling in school and I just wish there were more resources that were given to them for free.

Read more: A fully online tutor shares his must-have tech tools.

EDTECH: Do you have any specific success stories you want to share?

Belden: One of the teachers in my school, she’s an art teacher, so she doesn’t usually use technology. So, when I started pushing some professional development into our school, I got really excited. She said, “I’ve never thought of putting art with Google Classroom, but I really think I can make it work.” I’ve built a site on Google now, and they keep files of artwork for students so they can share examples for years to come. It’s amazing what you did. She’s been teaching, I think, for over 15 years now. It doesn’t matter how young you are or how long you’ve been studying, you can still try new things, and you can succeed. She has done very well for her class this year.

EDTECH: You mentioned PD. What specifically have you been able to do for your co-workers?

Belden: I helped them find free resources, or I’ll make really quick instructions with no bugs. Teachers are tired of time; They don’t want to sit for two hours of PD. They want to know where to click and how they can use it. So I really focused on making quick tutorial videos, then working with them if someone needed a one-on-one to look at new resources.

Related: How can schools increase investment in technology professional development?

EDTECH: In the past year, teachers have been pushed to use educational technology. As students return to the classroom, how can teachers continue to incorporate technology into lessons and increase engagement?

Belden: The only thing I’m concerned about is that I don’t really want teachers to come in and use edtech tools as a digital worksheet. I’ve seen it a lot, where teachers put children at the computer, put headphones on and sit there. We don’t want that in our school. We want students to feel excited, engaged, and connected with others around them.

So, the two main things are: Is it to increase cooperation? Are they engaged and excited to learn? If it doesn’t, it’s usually a digital worksheet or something to check a box to complete the work. When returning to the classroom, teachers need to ensure that it is a meaningful and purposeful support or extension of learning.

I really hope we can get more creative next year after we’ve developed practices. We’ve kind of had to learn them, but with this year being so bad I hope the teachers can take away some of the positivity we had this year so we can help the kids in different ways.

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